Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holiday Hangover


Here is a sampling of the fare I enjoyed in a three day span from Sunday to Christmas night:

A Turkey Dinner with ALL the Fixin's, A Candy Cane, Hershey Kiss Cookies, Homemade Waffles with Pure Maple Syrup and Bacon, Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies, Baked Stuffed Shells with Meatballs and French Bread, Lindt Lindor Truffles, Black Cherry Lambic Beer, Chocolate Coconut Pecan Pie, Lindt Lindor Truffles, Bacon, Ham, Homefries and English Muffins, Lindt Lindor Truffles, A Meatball Grinder on French Bread w/cheese, More Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies, A Nestle's Crunch Santa, A Milk Chocolate Santa, A Marshmallow Filled Chocolate Santa, , Baked Ham with Mashed Carrots, Peas and Biscuits, Lindt Lindor Truffles, Coffee with a triple shot of Bailey's Irish Cream, Lemon Lush (a decadent dessert that has a recipe so secret that if I told you it, I'd have to kill you, so don't ask), Lindt Lindor Truffles, More Lemon Lush....

This morning I feel like I just spent the week on a drinking binge in Vegas and my liquor intake was relatively low.

I won't step on a scale 'till after the New Year and a weeks worth of cardio and weights.

Does it seem bright in here or is it just me?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Littlest Angel


There are events in life which occur with such resounding force that the shock waves are felt for decades. The ripple effect of these events can be felt by those who where never present or even born when the event occurred. December 14, 1970 is the date of one of those events in my life and that of my family.

Its the day my brother died.

He was 1 month, 26 days old.

Derek was born in mid-October during the brilliance and splendor of Autumn in New England. I remember going to visit my mother and Derek in the hospital the day after he was born. My aunt and I drove over to Saint Margaret's hospital in Dorchester braving a chilly fall rain. As we made our way to the maternity ward we stopped at the gift shop. I begged her to buy a little doll dressed in baby-boy-blue, for my new brother. After what probably seemed like hours of groveling to her, she relented. I can't recall presenting him with my gift, but it became a fixture in his crib, at our home.

A new baby adds spice to a home, sometimes mild and sweet and at other times hot, unbearably hot. My mother was born high strung. If she were in school today she would be diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, PTSD or one of the myriad of other afflictions, abbreviated with letters. The month following Derek's birth was a mish-mash of highs and lows. The tenor of the household mirrored my mother's mood.

I can remember her crying uncontrollably, while smoking at the kitchen table while Derek was lying on the couch, surrounded by pillows.

I can remember sitting with my mother on the front steps of our apartment in Hyde Park. It was a warm Fall day and the trees were shedding their leaves. She allowed me to hold my brother while she watched, tentatively. I remember the smell of crisp fallen leaves while I cradled his tiny head.

I remember my mother and I laughing uncontrollably while I "helped" her change his diaper. He peed all over the two of us.

I remember my father (who was usually no where to be found) and mother fighting loudly, while I rubbed my brothers head while he lay in his crib.

The night of December 13, 1970 was a typical night in my childhood home. My mother downstairs smoking cigarettes and drinking tea. My sisters playing in their room. My brother Mark and I jumping on our beds in our room. Mark and I took Derek out of his crib and put him on my bed. We jumped around him while he lay in the middle. He didn't cry, he just seemed content watching us. We assumed he enjoyed the gentle jostling.

The next few days were a blur.

Who knows what traumas we block out of our minds. If we knew then they wouldn't be blocked, but open for examination. Some memories are best hidden from our consciousness.

I don't remember much about the day my brother died. I recall sadness, grief. I recall standing across the street from my house with the snow lightly falling, telling a schoolmate from my kindergarten class about my brother. I recall my mother promising me that they would bury my gift, the baby-boy-blue doll with him, so he wouldn't be alone. My mother brought me a flower from his funeral. We pressed it in plastic, and put it in an encyclopedia. From then, through my high school years, I would come across it when looking up something beginning with an "S" or a "T" and think of him.

My mother was never the same. From mid-October to December 14th every year until the day she died was torturous. She blamed herself for his death. The morning he died she got him from his crib for his morning feeding. She tried to get him to latch on, but he just wouldn't take her breast. She tried again and noticed that he was cold, motionless. He was gone.

"Crib Death" we were always told. When my mother passed in 1999 we found Derek's death certificate amongst her belongings. Cause of death: acute cardiac failure, emaciation.

Emaciation.

That explained the years of autumnal depression. The years of self loathing and self destruction. I, myself, thought I played a role in his passing. For decades I thought that maybe that night we were jumping on my bed that we hurt him, somehow. It was no ones fault. Our frolicking on the bed had nothing to do with it. My mother gave him everything she had, unfortunately she barely had enough to care for herself. The well had run dry.

Christmas time was always bittersweet. Ghosts of Christmas past were not friendly specters guiding my mother toward redemption, but haunting reminders of inadequacies and failure. Someway, somehow, my mother was able to emotionally detach immediately the day after the anniversary of Derek's death each year and get ready for Christmas. I don't know how she did it, but she was always able to pull off Christmas without her emotions getting in the way of our enjoyment of the holiday. As the years went by her grief became more and more transparent until it got to the point where she was paralyzed by her loss and unable to find any joy in the season

The year Derek died and for many years following, there was a Christmas special on TV titled "The Littlest Angel". It was the story about a boy (played by Johnny Whitaker, Jodie on "Family Affair") who dies and goes to Heaven, but is allowed to go back to earth to get his cherished treasure box, so he may give it as a gift to the Christ child on Christmas. Each Christmas I imagined that Derek was the "littlest angel" and gave his favorite toy, his doll dressed in baby-boy-blue, to baby Jesus.

In August of 1999, when I received the news of my mother's death my thoughts immediately turned to Derek.

I imagined him welcoming my mother into heaven.

I imagined her sense of relief when he forgave her for not having enough to give.

I was comforted by the thought of them being together again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Weekly Weigh In (week 2)




4 Lbs lost. No big deal. It is due to increased cardio and weight lifting, resulting in water loss, not fat. I have upped all of my weights to 3/4 of the amount I used to lift when I was in great shape a few years back (I am doing 35 Lb one arm curls, sets of ten, I used to do 45 lbs). My cardio workouts have increased in intensity, but have stayed at 30 minutes. I went to the gym 5 days last week. Diet is another story.

I haven't cut out any foods as it would be useless. I went to a Christmas party Saturday night and the Pats game on Sunday. When the holidays are over I'll deal with the food issue, which is always my biggest obstacle to my staying in shape.

Its funny that when I used to go out drinking a few days per week I was in better shape, than now, when my drinking binges are few and far between. I think I used to eat less when I'd go out drinking. Now instead of going out to watch the Sox or Pats at a sports bar I pound down a couple of pounds of boneless chicken wings takeout from the "Hangar" in Amherst or treat myself to a few canolli's and "snickers" cheesecake from La Fiorentina.

I might have to start going out drinking a few nights per week to get back into shape.......NOT! (In my best "Borat" voice)

Next weigh in is Christmas Eve. It will be a moral victory if I can stay at 231.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learning To Glide

Visions of Bobby Orr flying through the air, parallel to the ice, arms raised in victory, weightless.



This is an image that is ingrained in my mind, as well as every man over the age of 40 who grew up in Boston. Hockey was king in Boston during the early 70's. The Red Sox were mediocre, the Patriots were less than mediocre and the Celtics were rebuilding after dominating the NBA for a decade. The Boston Bruins, founded in 1924, became the first franchise in the NHL hailing from the USA , but hockey always took a backseat to the other major sports. That is until 1966. That was the year Bobby Orr put on the Black and Gold and showed the NHL a brand of hockey that had never been seen before. Mr. Orr's play combined with his teams new found success started a hockey craze in the New England area that lasted for twenty years. In the time of political upheaval and societal changes Orr was a clean cut, hard working kid who embodied many of the ideals that held tight through out the small towns and burbs of the Northeast. Every parent wanted their kid to play hockey. Every kid wanted to be Bobby Orr. Whether it be on the asphalt of the street, outside on the local pond or organized in a rink, every kid played hockey.

I could always skate. I don't remember how I learned or what age I started, but from December to March each year my friends and I would skate wherever there was ice. We would skate on iced over parking lots, backyards flooded by doting parents or at the local MDC rinks. Except when playing hockey in organized leagues, we never wore protective gear. If you fell it was certain you would get a bump, bruise or in the worst case, a concussion. Winter seemed to fly by. We reveled in the cold. We were sad when winter was over and looked forward to the next year when we could see our breath again. Fast forward 30 years.

Times have changed. Kids don't play outside in the winter anymore. The hills and ponds that used to be filled with the sounds of children playing are now eerily silent. Cautious parents and the Internet have made winter a time to embrace our inner mammal and hibernate. I have found myself spending less and less time outdoors as each winter passes. From the warmth of my living room I stare out at the white and cold and recall the sting of the cold air on my cheeks while gliding across the ice. I signed my boy up for skating lessons.

Four weeks ago he strapped on skates for the first time. The first day on the ice was like watching him learn how to walk, but accelerated, times 365. He spent the first five minutes of the hour long class holding on to the boards and the next ten minutes lying on the ice making snow angels, minus the snow. The instructors at the rink have a hands off approach, so until he was ready to learn how to get up he was going to have to be content with crawling and watching. Eventually he tried to get up on his skates. The instructor worked with him for a few minutes showing him how to balance on one knee and push himself up to standing. Once standing he shuffled his feet in order to move then, upon feeling the slightest bit unsteady, would make himself have a "controlled" fall down to the ice, where it was safe. Each time he got up to standing, he shuffled a bit further and a bit further. By the end of class he and the other beginners followed the instructor slowly around the rink like ducklings following their mom.

At one point he broke away from the pack of about twenty kids. He had seen me watching from across the rink and started toward me. He had a huge smile from ear to ear as he moved cautiously over the ice in my direction. When he got about twenty feet from me I had a serious case of deja-vu.

I then remembered a morning in my living room when Matt was just a year old and a new walker. He walked from the foot rest, where he was balancing, to me sitting on the couch, across the living room. As he approached the couch he had a huge smile on his face. He fell into my arms and we laughed and hugged.

When Matt reached the glass and the boards from where I was watching he mouthed something inaudible then started back toward the other end of the rink. As he skated away I was filled with more pride and joy than I 've experianced as a parent to this point. Not because he is going to be the next Bobby Orr, but because he is happy, growing, learning and still seeks me out. I hope he knows that whatever he's doing, where ever he is, I'll be there... watching.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Weekly Weigh In

This is my first weekly weigh in. 235, same as last week.


That's a good thing. This is the first time since August that I haven't seen a weight gain when stepping on the scale. In the comments section of my last post you may have caught the comments by a one Shot-N-Voyzen, who is none other that my buddy Billy Harlow. He has been featured in a few of my posts namely, The Snow Game and Where Were You When. We have been friends (off and on...he, he) since we went on a golf trip to Florida together back in 1996. Back in the winter of 2001 we had a weight loss wager wherein he cheated on the weight he started at, thus appearing to lose more weight than I. We started a new contest yesterday and weighed in at the Northampton Athletic Club where I have been a member since quitting my job at the YMCA 18 years ago. He joined the club recently. I weighed in at 235, he weighed in at 236.



Why are Billy and I friends? I have asked myself that question many a time. We love to golf, we love to drink and most of all we love competition. Minutes before the weigh-in we had a heated game of H O R S E in the basketball court (which I lost). We were partners in our golf league at Beaver Brook for a few years. In the three years we were partners we won the league once, but didn't care about our competitors. Each league night each was intent on beating the other. We would play for money, but mostly for bragging rights while sitting around the bar throwing down some cold and frosties. I'm sure the "weight loss challenge" will be as intense as our previous contests.

Tune in next week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Solomon The Milkman

Suldog, aka Jimmy Sullivan, my cousin, posted this piece on his blog today. It is about my grandfather. I never had a strong relationship with the Sullivan side of my family after the age of seven due to my parents divorce and my father's complete abandonment of me and my brothers and sisters. Through my cousin (who I reconnected with after a 38 year hiatus, through his blog) I am able to glean bits of family history and lore through the eyes of a third party, without the "spin" of my parents. I first read this story last year and got a kick out of it because when I moved from Boston, MA to Northampton, MA (100 miles west, but thousands of miles apart culturally and philosophically) in the late seventies I experienced a similar situation with many of the Puerto Rican kids in my neighborhood who "Ricanized" my name.

Without further adieu, the classic story telling of my cousin, James S. Sullivan:



I'm going to tell you about my Jewish roots.

My grandfather Sullivan was a milkman for H. P. Hood for many years. He told this story, which took place during the days when he did his route on a horse-drawn wagon.

His route traveled through the Mattapan section of Boston, which at that time was almost exclusively populated by Jewish families. Now, some of the people to whom he delivered milk thought he was Jewish. They thought his name was Solomon, not Sullivan.

I'm not positively sure how this assumption came about, but it's not a stretch to imagine what might have happened. Someone in the neighborhood probably asked what his name was and he (or, more likely, one of his customers with perhaps an Eastern European accent) said, "Sullivan", and whoever had asked the question, with the idea already in mind that he might be Jewish, heard "Solomon". That person told someone else, and so on.

It was possible. My grandfather didn't have the map of Ireland on his face like I do. He could have passed. Since he delivered milk in a Jewish neighborhood, his customers might naturally have assumed that he was Jewish, too. I don't suppose he would have had any reason to disabuse them of this notion. He probably figured it wouldn't hurt business to let them keep on thinking it.

Anyway, one day while he was doing his route, some of the older Jewish men called for him to come down off of his wagon so that he could help them meet the required numbers for a minyan; that is, so that they could have enough for prayer service, which required at least 10 men.

They yelled to him, "Solomon! We need another for a minyan! You got time maybe?"

My grandfather was sharp enough to know what they were talking about. He had been delivering milk in that neighborhood for some time, so he was familiar with words and phrases and customs that an Irishman might otherwise not be expected to know. The question was, what should he tell these men? Should he spill the beans and let them know that he wasn't really named Solomon, but Sullivan? That he wasn't Jewish, but Catholic, and that his ancestry was Irish and French?

Well, my grandfather figured it this way: Who did it hurt if he helped them out? As long as they thought he was Jewish, God wouldn't be mad at them for including an Irishman in their prayer service, and he also figured that God would probably look kindly on him for doing the old Jews a mitzvah. So, my grandfather parked the wagon and made the minyan for them.

He faked his way through by following the lead of the others. Having attended Catholic mass for many years, he knew he could probably get by with indistinct mumbling as long as he did the right body motions, so he kept his voice low and bowed when they did and so forth. Afterwards, the old men thanked him and he got back on his wagon and finished his route. Of course, from that day forward there was little doubt along Blue Hill Avenue that Tom Sullivan (that is, Solomon The Milkman) was Jewish - and a fairly devout Jew, at that.

Therefore, if someone calls me "Solly", instead of "Sully", I won't complain. My grandfather wasn't really a Jew, but he played one on his milk route.

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam shehecheyanu v'kiyimanu v'higi'anu laz'man hazeh. (Amein)

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 03, 2007

MAXED OUT




I have officially maxed out. My weight has reached an all-time high. Up until three summers ago I was doing a good job fighting father time. Yes, I was still binge drinking on occasion and making some shitty dietary choices, but besides that, I was working out 5 days per week and getting plenty of rest.

Then the kids came.

My oldest son is 4 3/4. Until he was about 1 1/2 it was pretty easy to maintain my health. He was still eating baby foods and hadn't developed a taste for foods with cartoon characters plastered all over the packaging. My wife and I, although tired and stressed from new time constraints, were able to manage getting into the gym 4-6 days per week depending on our schedules.

Then Pete was born.

As soon as my wife went back to work after the birth of Peter in Spring of 2005, our number two son, the weight started piling on. At first it was just the usual winter weight gain associated with the change in season. As soon as the cold weather hits and the light starts fading I start craving potatoes, breads, soups and most anything that has a high caloric count, especially carbohydrates. This, being in conjunction with the holiday season always translates to a 15-20 lb weight gain between Sept 1st and January 1st. Its been that way with me since I got out of High School. Usually between January 1st and April 1st of each year for the past twenty years I spend my winter in the gym, mostly because there is nothing better to do. I played a lot of Basketball, did a lot of cardio and lifted lots of weight.

The first winter after Peter was born ('05-'06) I was back in the gym as usual, but my weight loss was slow. I hadn't gained any more weight than usual, I had all but stopped my nights out drinking, but my diet was out of control. All my old childhood favorites were back in vogue thanks to my elder son Matt's burgeoning taste buds and his love of commercials. Instead of having a salad with diced boneless chicken for lunch I was having PBJ's, Grilled Cheese or when I was completely lazy, McDonalds or Friendly's.
That year I never dipped below the 200LB mark, but teetered around 205.

The following winter ('06-'07) which was last year I was up to about 220 on January 1st. I spent the first week of the new year back in the gym, eating healthier and on my way back below 200 for the summer. Then my feet gave out. I had woke up one morning and my foot was twice its normal size. I tried to go to the gym anyway thinking I could work it out and it would go away. A week later it was still swollen. I spent a month icing my foot, heating my foot, massaging my foot and by the time February rolled around the damage was done, I was 228 and really out of shape. I had never taken that much time off from the gym in 20 years and it caught up with me quickly. In the past my diet was never the biggest issue because I was in the gym every day, so I burned off everything. If I wanted to lose a few and look good for the summer season I would eat less carbs and more veggies and lose some. If I put on a few pounds it never looked bad because I am 6 feet tall with a 46 inch chest, so bouncing between a 34 inch waist and a 36 inch waist I still looked OK. I never got below 215 this past summer and although I knew I was heavier than I should be, I felt OK so ignored it.

I have complained recently about my weight to people and the response is always "you look good" or "you're not overweight". I have a frame that carries weight well, but I see my self naked in the mirror and its not pretty. My Body Mass Index puts me in the obese range (BMI doesn't take into account lean muscle mass, just overall weight).

As of this past Friday I weighed 235 LBS. I am still going to the gym 5 days per week, but my eating is out of control. I am constantly tired. I have a gut, not just a little spare tire or love handles. I have had a hard time bending over to tie my sneakers and have considered getting Velcro (just kidding, but I can understand the appeal). I don't think I'm too far gone and I think 195 can happen by March. Here is the plan:

1) Make an appointment for a physical to take place no later than the Ides of March.

2) Stop the cold weather/holiday weight gain immediately after I decorate my Christmas Tree tonight. I will gorge on Christmas cookies and hot cocoa, then no crap until Christmas Eve. Cold Turkey!

3) Get my "pre-kid" workout routine back intact and be back to all of my former cardio and weight lifting numbers. (The cardio is not far off, but the weights are another story)

4) Drop 40 LBS by my physical.

This will work because having the physical will give me incentive (I don't want a lecture from my doctor). The food will be easier after the holidays as long as I can be strong during lunch time when the kids are begging for Micky D's or in the morning when they want a "Donut Party", which is their name for a dozen donuts from Dunkin Donuts, mine too! The bottom line is that I am going to be 43 March 1st and if I don't turn it around now, with my genetic history and addictive personality I will be taking a dirt nap by the time I'm 60. At the top of the page is my weight tracker and I will post my progress each Tuesday after my Monday weigh-ins. Any help you all out there in the blogosphere can give would be appreciated. (I am a catholic school boy so guilt works great on me, but I'll resent you forever). My hope is that by posting this endevor here it will be an insurance policy against giving in to my insaitiable sweet tooth. Now excuse me while I plan my tree decorating dessert menu. YUM!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Did You Hear The One About The Irishman And The Three Poles?

I am not clumsy. I don't just inexplicably drop things or fall for no reason. I've always been the kid picked first or second in gym class and more often than not been the one doing the picking, so I am fairly athletic. Throughout my life I've had a problem with poles and I'm not talking about the kind that everyone makes jokes about. I'm talking about those pesky objects sticking up from the ground. Whether they be of the telephone, light or those holding up clothes lines variety, I've had a problem with them.

Case # 1:

I was about 10 years old playing a game called "Three Flies, You're Out" in my backyard located in the Fairmount Projects, Hyde Park, Boston, Massachusetts. When we didn't have at least 10 kids to have a game of 5 on 5 baseball (which we considered the minimum) we would play this game. The batter would toss balls in the air and hit them to the waiting fielders. When a particular fielder caught three fly balls it would be his turn to hit the fly balls. Competition was fierce to make the catch.

I had caught two balls and was lining myself up to catch a third. I was running full at steam keeping my eye on the baseball. It was hit to the deepest part of the backyard where there was a fence and a clothesline full of freshly washed, drying clothes. I reached up and caught the ball on the run. Simultaneously I saw nothing but white followed by complete darkness with dots of white light streaming toward me from a black hole. When I came to I was lying beneath a gaggle of faces staring down at me and clothes blowing in the cold, stiff March wind. "Sully, are you OK" said one of the faces. I couldn't focus on which face had asked the question. I asked "What happened?", nervously. I felt like puking. "You ran into the clothes yard, through some sheets and hit a pole..... you're up." said a voice which I think was my friend Sean. I staggered to my feet and went to take my turn hitting balls. When I realized I had started walking in the wrong direction I cool-ly turned to my friends and said, "I'm heading home", covering up the fact that I barely knew where I was. Sean ran up to me and grabbed me by the shoulder. Startled, I turned around, still not quite sure of my surroundings. "We need the ball" Sean insisted. I looked down and the ball was still in my glove.

Case #2:

I was a little 13 year old bastard. My friends and I would torture this older guy in the neighborhood who collected disability and did nothing all day, but smoke weed and drink PBR. This guy was in his twenties and lived with his elderly Mom who went to work all day while he stayed home and self medicated. I was living in a housing project called Hampton Gardens in Northampton, Massachusetts where I spent my teen years. During the summer when we weren't playing ball or finding a swimming hole, we were finding trouble. Mentally torturing Pat was a fun way to pass time. This is what we would do. We would bang on his door and then hide in a bush adjacent to his apartment to see his enraged reaction when finding no one there after he had to get up from his chair, put down his beer and his bowl, walk down the stairs and open his door. We were to this guy like Bart Simpson is to Moe of Moe's Tavern. When he would open the door and find no one there he would scream "I am going to kill you little fuckers when I catch you, you are all fucking dead!", not unlike Moe's reaction when Bart places prank calls to his bar. As soon as we could see him sitting down in his recliner through the second floor window we would bang on the door again.

One day, my friends Manny and Richy and I were bored. We took our positions just out side of Pat's door. We slammed his door and went to our usual hiding spot. A minute went by and nothing. Manny went back to the door and kicked it so hard I thought he broke it. Just as Manny dove back into the bushes we heard screaming. The screaming wasn't coming from the door, but from directly behind the bush; he had snuck out the back of his apartment and figured us out. We bolted from our hiding place. I was the first one out of the bush and started running through the maze of apartments. I turned to see Pat hot on my trail. The crazed, drunk stoner was focused on me and was gaining ground. I turned back to make my next move and BAM, nothing but stars. I had ran into one of the many light poles strewn across the housing complex.

I came to quickly. Standing above me was Pat. He was wild eyed and breathing heavily; he smelled like a bar room floor at closing time. I stood up and he screamed "What the FUCKKKK!". He went to grab me. I ducked and got by him. Being at least 15 years younger and not stoned out of my gourd, outran him to Manny's apartment and bounded inside. Pat slogged to the door, peaked in and sloshed back to his hovel. I stood in Manny's kitchen trying to get my breath. Manny was laughing, maniacally. "Whats so funny" I asked, irritated that I bore the brunt of Pats rage. He pointed down at my crotch. I looked down tentatively. I had pissed my pants.

Case #3:

I was in line at D'Angelos last week, waiting for a grinder, when I had seen an old friend from Hampton Gardens I hadn't seen in years. Tim was a few years older than I and was one of the guys I looked up to. He is black and used to have a huge fro back in the day. His hair is now close cropped, due to style and to minimize the effects of middle aged hair loss. I said "Hey, where the fro?". When he recognized me he said "Shit, Sully, I haven't seen you since that football game at Jackson Street".

Ahhh, Jackson Street.

Every Sunday morning in the Fall from the time I moved to Northampton at age 12 until I was 25 we would have pick-up tackle football games at Jackson Street School football field. At the very least we would play 5 on 5. If there was a huge turnout we would have 30+ kids there, with a full line and even subs. Tackle football with no pads or helmets is not for the faint of heart. Often there would be concussions, broken limbs and bloodied faces. One Sunday when I was about 18 we were having a particularly violent and close fought game. It was tied 9 - 9. Even though we had goalposts we only counted touchdowns. We usually played for three hours or until one team got to ten. Tim was playing quarterback for my team, a position I usually played, but we would switch it up occasionally. It was one of Tim's last games at Jackson, being that he was moving to Amherst soon. In the huddle he called the play. I was to do a post pattern. We only had ten yards to go for the winning score, so I would have to make my break at the two yard line. Tim lofted the ball to the back of the end zone. I had beat my defender and was reaching up to make the game winning catch when BAM, I ran into the goalpost. I never lost consciousness, but had a huge gash running across my nose. Blood was running everywhere and I had to take off my shirt and hold it against my gash. Everyone was cracking up. From my perspective, not so funny. Everyone else said it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. They all decided to end the game there, not out of deference to me and my injury, but because the sides were uneven and no one wanted to sit out on the other team. The guys spent a few minutes imitating my smashing into the goalpost complete with sound effects and pratfalls. We walked back to the "Gardens" with everyone laughing at my expense. The laughs would only get louder when I tried to blame Tim for leading me too much, into the goalpost. It crescendoed when I said I would have caught it if the pole wasn't there. My mother wasn't laughing when she drove me to the ER to get stitched up.

I had another incident with a clothesline that had to do with running from a girlfriend's house when her mother came home from work earlier than expected and me trying to put shoes on, while running on the ice, while looking behind me, but that's another story for another time.

This summer at the park my son Matt was running from my son Pete while playing "tag" and he ran into a pole holding up a swing set. He wasn't hurt badly, but yelled angrily "that pole got in my way!". All I could think was "I know son, I know".

I hope this pole thing is not genetic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Comes First



As a child growing up in the Hyde Park section of Boston I used to look forward to our "Holiday Bazaar" held each year in the auditorium of my school. I attended Joesph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial School, a catholic school complete with uniforms, a chapel and of course, tough as nails, nuns. The bazaar was the first indication that Christmas was somewhere in the near future. The bazaar would have tons of arts and crafts for sale, most with a Christmas theme. There would be holiday wreaths, candles and tree ornaments for sale along with cookies, cakes and pies. There were games of chance such as a roulette wheel and a game wherein you pulled a lollipop from a Styrofoam base and if you had a green tip on it you won a prize such as a football, baseball or a toy car. If you didn't get a green tip, you got the lollipop, which was the real reason why you plopped down your quarter. The women manning the booths at the bazaar would all be wearing Santa's Hats, elf caps or holiday earrings. The bazaar was held the second weekend in November, so the memory of Halloween had faded and the anticipation of Turkey and cranberry sauce was simmering. The bazaar at my school and other holiday bazaars held in various parishes, schools and local men's clubs were usually the first time people put any thought into Christmas since the preceding year when they brought their dying, dried out trees to the curbside. It was when the browns and oranges of fall were starting to be replaced by the greens and reds of the impending Christmas season.

Christmas in the Catholic church is celebrated in the four weeks preceeding Christmas
in the season known as Advent. There is an Advent Wreath that is presented in the front of the church next to the alter, which has three purple candles and one rose colored candle surrounding a white candle nestled around the wreath. During each Sunday a new candle is lit to remind us of the coming of the birth of Christ and the white candle is lit on Christmas day. Our nuns reminded us of this fact each day in class. Although we got a glimpse of the "big" holiday to come at the bazaar, we all knew there would be no acknowledgement in school or church of the start of the Christmas season until the first Advent candle was lit the first Sunday after Thanksgiving.

I took piano lessons for a number of years after school. I would start practicing Christmas carols when the windows were still open and a warm breeze blowing across the keyboard, so I would know the songs in time for our Christmas recital. The parents who donated crafts to the bazaar would start knitting scarfs and sweaters at Labor Day cookouts. My mother would shop for bargains when she had the money or found a particularly good bargain as early as June. Christmas preparations were always in the works, but behind the scenes and without fanfare.

30 years after I last set foot in my old school things have changed. Christmas has been commercialized to the point of having year round stores with Christmas themes, year round Christmas music channels on cable TV, Christmas displays set up before Halloween and Christmas commercials starting the first of November. In this world of immediate gratification anticipation is an emotion that has fallen by the wayside.

The holiday bazaar, cherry pickers putting up Christmas lights in the town square the day after Thanksgiving and Santa at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade where all signs that the Christmas season was near. The lighting of the Advent wreath let me know the Christmas season was here. What are the signs now? Macy's Pre Pre-Chrismas sale, in October? Buy one get one Christmas CD's at Wal-Mart, in October? Home Depot's sale on artificial trees, in October? The Christmas season has lost its mystique and charm in the quest for the almighty dollar.

My cousin Jimmy's (aka: Sul-Dog) favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I have to agree with him to an extent. I love the unconditional aspect of Thanksgiving. You prepare a tremendous spread, spend time with friends and family, watch hours of parades and football and give thanks for all you have. There are no expectations beyond that. But, I still love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the decorations. I love the traditions. My wish is that we stop diluting the holiday by starting Christmas in October. One of my favorite stories growing up was a story called "Christmas Every Day". In that story a boy gets his wish of having Christmas every day and soon realizes that it loses its appeal when there are Christmas Carols in July and gifts all the time. Its a lesson I wish corporate America would learn.

I love Thanksgiving, but Christmas is still my favorite holiday. I just wish everyone would remember that Thanksgiving comes first.

(Please visit my cousin's spot (click here)to see the inspiration for this post.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NFL 2007: At The Halfway Mark

I made my picks for the current NFL season 10 weeks ago. Most of my prognostications were right on, but there are some huge surprises throughout the league. With seven weeks to go there is nothing settled. There are no playoff births set and no team has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention (well, the Dolphins are pretty much dead in the water, he, he, get it? Dolphins....water). Lets see how my picks are faring:


AFC East:

Pats, Pats and Pats. No changes here except that Buffalo has put itself into position for a wild card run. The Jets and Dolphins are fighting it out for the worst record in football.

AFC South:

Indy, Indy and Indy. Another no brainer. I said that Tennessee would be a surprise and I was right, but Jax has made itself a contender.

AFC North:

I picked Baltimore, but they would have to make a run to remember to overtake a resurgent Pittsburgh and the upstart Browns, who may be the biggest surprise in the league.

AFC West:

"Denver will tame the west with a 11-5 record and will beat the Chargers twice which will give them the division. The Chargers will also be 11-5 and get the Wild Card."

I stick by these picks as Denver can't continue to play so poorly and San Diego's offense is going nowhere with Rivers at the helm.

NFC East:

I picked Dallas and said that this division is the best in football. I am "Karnack" reborn.

NFC South:

Tampa Bay has been a surprise, but I'll stick with my picks of Nola and Lina.

NFC North:

"Bears, by default. The worst division in football."

WRONG!! Green Bay and Detroit will both be in the playoffs. You can't count the Bears out of the playoffs, but Favre has all but wrapped up the division.

NFC West:

"Seattle will win the division handily, but the rest of the teams will be competitive. SF will make a run at the Wild Card and Arizona will be entertaining with their potent offense, but come up just short of a playoff spot."

Arizona may be a bigger threat than I thought. Seattle has sputtered on offense with Alexander having a horrible year after collecting a huge paycheck. Can you say complaisant?

Not bad for an arm chair quarterback. Only the Bears and Baltimore have thrown a wrench into the works, but the season is far from over. Check back in February for the final outcomes. You can decide then whether or not to fly to Vegas next September with the deed to your house and my picks in hand.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Breakdown Of Society (Part II)

The two main ingredients in the formation of society is safety and trust. When early humans encountered another they had two choices, kill the stranger in order to eliminate any chance of being killed or befriend the stranger, in the hopes of strengthening their clan and making their unit safer. Safety in numbers. We carry those same instincts into our interactions today.

A third option has been added to our interactions with strangers in the 21st century and that is to ignore them. Treat them like objects or obstacles. Treating another person in this way is inherently dangerous because you are skipping that initial phase wherein you size up someones potential to be dangerous to you and jump right into the safety and trust phase wherein it is assumed that its safe to be around them. The problem is those "objects" are human beings and may not assume that that you are not a threat to them. These "obstacles" may not be safe and trustworthy and may pose great danger. This is the point where manners and pleasantries come into the equation. At the very least people should use "please", "thank you", "excuse me", "I'm sorry" and "have a nice day". These kind words should be used liberally when dealing with strangers. Why? Because it is at these initial meetings that form the basis of trust and safety. If pleasantries are not used when someones door bumps yours when opening it in a parking lot or spray your leg when cleaning an adjacent piece of workout equipment, then instead of befriending that stranger and bringing them into your clan, you will kill them and that's not good for society, is it? (NRA members, please do not answer that last question, it was rhetorical.)



I was watching a piece on the Today show yesterday in which there was a girl who was suspended from school for hugging a friend. It turns out there are many school districts in this country where hugging has been banned and is grounds for discipline. What happened to "Hugs Not Drugs"? (Would teachers rather the kids were smoking "J's" at lunch?)

The generation (sorry Boomers, but when you ingest every known substance to man in the hopes of enlightenment and now need to read every label so as not to put anything unhealthy into your body I give you one word, HYPOCRISY!) that professed that "All You Need Is Love" is now the generation that equates hugs with bringing drugs to school, destroying school property, hate crimes and fighting, all offences subject to suspension. In the misguided attempt to ensure safety of some students school officials have taken away a key component in the formation of trust and safety.

Touch.

Whether it be a fist bump, hand shake or a hug, touch has always been utilized as a way to show good faith and trustworthiness. From a young age, as young as 3 or 4, kids know the difference between a "good touch" and a "bad touch". Why can't school administrators, who are between 40 and 65 years old, discern between good touch and bad touch? I am not advocating "humping in the hallways" of our schools or making out in the back of class, but if its a simple hug, whether it be a morning greeting girl to girl, a man-hug between teammates or a tender high school sweet-heart hug at their lockers, then whats the problem? The problem is that administrators and teachers are too busy to make the distinction between the types of "hugs", so make blanket policies to make their jobs easier.

These policies are driving our children further into a vanilla, self-absorbed society where safety and liability is valued over humanity. School administrators and teachers should spend more time on curtailing "bullying" and identifying troubled students if they want to ensure safety and avoid their school becoming the next Columbine. When you send the messages that hugs are bad, you are sending the message that detachment is good. Detachment is what enabled Kip Kinkel, Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to kill their classmates. If they were in an inclusive atmosphere where they felt valued and loved could they have mowed down their fellow students as if they were "objects"? Maybe. Maybe they needed a hug. When is the last time somebody died from being hugged to death?

Lastly, I was cleaning leaves from my yard last night. In the dim light of dusk I could see the leaves being blown into piles, but could not see the dog shit that was on the edge of my yard where my unthoughtful neighbors let their dogs dump without cleaning it up. I got a clump of it on my sneakers, traipsed into the house down to my basement where I replaced a furnace filter. As I sat crossed legged on my basement floor, trying to maneuver the filter into place I could smell something horrible. At first I thought a leak has developed in the sewer pipe or an animal had crawled into our heating system and died. I then moved my leg and realized that I had dog shit all over my sneakers, pants and basement floor. Gagging, I ran upstairs and cleaned myself up. When I finally stopped heaving I thought about my revenge. Should I drop trou on their driveway and leave them a gift? Should I light a bag of shit on fire on their doorstep and ring their doorbell. I decided that the next time I see their dog going doody in my yard I'll simply say, "Could you please clean up your dogs poop when he goes in my yard? Thank you." After all, I don't want to be a hypocrite.

Oh, I almost forgot. Have a nice day!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Breakdown Of Society

The "me" generation has buried its ideals in American society like a tick. I am thoroughly convinced that the concept of "we" as it relates to society at large, is gone. As the TV and Internet has driven us back into our caves and isolation, common courtesy and manners have fallen by the wayside. Why am I kvetching about this today? Let me explain my day yesterday.

I was at the gym doing my normal cardio routine on the elliptical trainer. A fellow gym goer was prepping the machine he was about to use by spraying it down with disinfectant provided by the gym (this is usually done post workout but this guy must really be afraid of catching something from gym equipment). As he was spraying it down he blasted me twice in the leg so much that the liquid started dripping down my leg and into my cross trainers. I shot him a look and even made a huge display of wiping my leg down, in the hopes of gleaning an apology. There was nothing. I know he saw me and I know he knew what he had done. The gym is like a microcosm of society, everyone working on personal goals in a group setting. Its imperative that everyone follows the rules of common courtesy such as putting away your weights when you are done, putting your towels in the towel bin and taking turns using the equipment. Not following these rules causes chaos and the gym doesn't function properly.

I was angry that this guy soaked me and then stared forward at the TV suspended from the ceiling, self absorbed in his workout and "Regis and Kelley, Live". I focused my anger on my workout. I upped the level on the cross trainer and pumped away. A few minutes later as I was watching "Sports Center" the TV suddenly changed to CNN. I occasionally watch CNN, I prefer MSNBC, but the guy who sprayed me changed the channel I was watching even though he was watching Regis. I tapped him politely on the arm and said "excuse me, I was watching that". He was flummoxed. "Oh, you were watching that? What channel was it?". "49", I said. He changed the channel, then changed the channel on his TV to CNN. No apology. I stared at him for a moment in amazement. It took lots of self control not to pound this guy. I, instead, focus on my routine.

Not one minute later the man to my right finished his workout and started to clean his machine. I felt a cold blast of liquid cover my arm from the elbow to the wrist. I had been sprayed again. I turned to the guy and bellowed "Excuse Me!". He appeared startled, as if he were waked in the middle of the night by an intruder. He had been so self absorbed in his own activity that he truly had no idea what I was talking about. "You just sprayed me down.", I said in a more civil tone, but forceful nonetheless. "Oh, I didn't realize, I was.." and he went back to cleaning his machine off. No apology.

Both of these guy were between 55 and 60 and just reinforced my belief that the generation that professed love and togetherness has become the most self centered, self absorbed generation in recent world history. They have a sense of entitlement that is unequaled amongst generations, but they are not alone. As I made my drive home from the gym I drove through downtown Northampton. Northampton is a quaint little city of 30,000 with lots of shops and restaurants. It has vibrant downtown area that is perfect for walking and people watching. I usually don't drive through downtown on the way home from the gym, being a little out of the way, but occasionally I like to see whats going on. There are a myriad of crosswalks in town and the traffic laws are strictly enforced to ensure the safety of the walkers, which are the life blood of the city. As I approached one of the crosswalks there was a twenty-something girl on her cell phone walking slowly across the walk. Half way across the walk, directly in front of my car, she stopped, completely engrossed in her conversation. She stood directly in front of my vehicle for a good twenty seconds. Just as I was about to blast on the horn the car behind me blasted on theirs. The girl looked up from her conversation and realized that she wasn't standing on the island in the median, but in front of my vehicle. Instead of apologizing, she flipped me off! I wasn't even the one that blasted their horn, but my kids and I bore the brunt of her unwarranted anger. I rolled my window down and asked,"why did you flip me off?". The girl said "Fuck you" and walked briskly, now, toward the other side of the street. The car behind me blasted their horn, now because I was clogging up traffic, so I continued home.

WTF!

More to come tomorrow.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Breaking News

Monday 11/5/07 10:45 AM

Who is Good and who is Evil?

As I watched the Pats/Colts game yesterday I noticed at one point during the game when the Pats had the ball and the crowd was screaming loudly that suddenly there was a noise like a CD was skipping. The announcers said nothing and I assumed it was an audio glitch on the part of CBS. It was just reported by WEEI that the NFL is looking into whether it was an audio glitch on the part of CBS or something done purposely by the Colts. The RCA Dome is known for its loud crowd noise, but in the post game conference yesterday Tom Brady stated that "it was if we were deaf" when describing the crowd noise and said that they had to go strictly "by the wristband". This means they had to run their offense with hand signals and silent snap counts, which put them at a severe disadvantage. After such lopsided officiating and the possibility that the Colts were piping in crowd noise to enhance the drunken hoots and hollers of those corn-fed, yokel Hoosiers....Can you spell C O N S P I R A C Y ?

Does video taping directly impact the outcome of the game being played? Probably not. Does piping in crowd noise as to inhibit play calling and communication between the Patriots while on offense? Absolutely!!! I hope the NFL and Roger Goodell pursue this issue with as much zeal and zest as they investigated the Patriots "Spygate" affair. If the Pats lost a first round draft choice and $750,000 in fines for the team and head coach, then this deliberate attempt to cheat and influence the direct outcome of the game should be worth the first and second round draft picks and two million in fines. Who is Evil and who is Good now?

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

This past weekend was the last of the "Best Sports Weekends" for Boston sports fans for a while. It seems like for the past two months every weekend has been filled with contests that have had huge implications in the sports world. This weekend the Red Sox were not part of the equation, basking in the glow of last weekends sweep of the Rockies and their second World Series title in four seasons. Each day this weekend there was a big game that on its own would be huge, but combined with the other games made for 48 hours of sporting bliss.

Friday Night

The Celtics opened up their NBA season with the new "Big Three", Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This has been the most anticipated Celtics season in two decades and they didn't disappoint the home crowd at the "Gah den". The game started slow with almost no scoring in the first quarter. It was as if the ghosts of Bird, McHale and Parrish were reluctant to abdicate their title to the new guys evidenced by the plethora of airballs, clangs off the rim and shots careening off the back board. Pierce looked like a man who had his death row sentence commuted (by Governor Garnett and AG Allen). He took control of the game in the third quarter. I fell asleep in the forth with the Celts holding a 20+ point lead. They won by 20, 103-83. I know its only opening day, but the Celts will be in the playoffs this year and a run at the Eastern Conference title is a real possibility.

Saturday Night

The #2 ranked Boston College Eagles and their Heisman hopeful, Matt Ryan squared of against unranked Florida State. My cousin Jimmy aka Sul-Dog scored us some tickets from a friend. Unbeknownst to me instead of tailgating in the remnants of Hurricane Noel (which brought torrential downpours and 40 mile an hour wind gusts) we were in the comfort of a corporate party held in a student cafeteria with all the beer you could drink and food you could eat. This hospitality took the sting out of the Nor'easter, but not the sting of a bevy of dropped passes, missed tackles and horrible officiating. The speedy Florida State defense was draped all over BC receivers all night, but there was nary a yellow flag in sight. In stark contrast the Eagles piled up 121 penalty yards on eight penalties and appeared to be running in quicksand all night. The Eagles have dropped to #8 in the polls and the BCS and have to win out to ensure a BCS bowl game.

Sunday Night

The Celtics won an afternoon contest vs the Raptors in OT which primed the pump for the most anticipated NFL regular season game ever, the 8-0 Patriots vs the 7-0 Colts. The game was a defensive battle from square one. Both teams punishing the other with smash-mouth D complete with plenty of helmet to helmet contact and borderline late hits. As in the BC game the previous evening the officiating was horrible. The Pats racked up 146 yards worth of penalties, half of which were on three pass interference calls which were completely bogus. The worst was a call against Cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who had perfect position on the receiver, who actually would've had an interception if he wasn't dragged down by receive Reggie Wayne. Of course when Kevin Faulk tried to make a catch on a critical 3rd down play he was hooked from behind, but the flags remained in the officials pocket. Even Jim Nance and Phil Sims, who were the TV announcers for the game, seemed perplexed as to why the Pats were getting called for everything and the Colt were getting called for nothing.

In spite of the poor officiating the Pats overcame a ten point defect in the forth quarter thanks to precise passing by Brady, phenomenal receptions by Moss, key returns by Welker and shut down "D" highlighted by a strip and pick by Green and Colvin respectively. Patriots: 24, Colts: 20 . I found it interesting that in his post game conference, Peyton Manning, in responding to a reporters question, agreed that the Colts injuries affected the outcome of this game. I didn't hear him, reference the Patriots depleted secondary, receiving core or stomach flu that half the the team suffered in his post game press conference after the AFC Championship game last year.

The run of great sports weekends has come to a close. There will be plenty of great games, but the confluence of football (college and pro), baseball, basketball and hockey (did I include hockey?) has come to an end. Good thing because I have neglected my kids, wife and housework to feed my need for Boston Sports. Next weekend I'll have lots and lots of leaves to rake. Maybe I'll get my housework done in time to watch BC play Maryland Saturday night.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served 52 - 7

"Let sleeping dogs lie."
Chaucer circa 1380



The New England Patriots have a lot to be angry about. Why would a team who is 8-0, leading the league in scoring, 4th in the league in defense and about two wins from wrapping up a fifth straight AFC East Championship and a playoff birth be angry? Let me enlighten you.


The Patriots pummeled the J E T S, Jets, Jets, Jets, Jets on opening day at the Meadowlands 38-14. Eric Mangini, the Jets coach ( who was a Patriots bench coach two years ago) reported to the NFL that the Patriots were videotaping, not from the coaches booth high above the stadium, but from the sidelines. This video was most likely being used to decipher the Jets signal calling on offense and defense in order for the Patriots to gain an advantage over the Jets the next time they faced them. This videotaping from the sidelines is against league rules and the Patriots received one of the harshest, if not the harshest penalty of all time. They lost their first round draft choice in 2008, the team was fined $250,000 and Coach Belichick was fined $500,000 personally. The media was in an uproar and dubbed the Patriots cheaters along the same line as the 1919 Black Sox, Rosie Ruiz, Danny Almonte and Barry Bonds.

Many coaches came to the defense of Belichick stating that the videotape gained from the sidelines is of almost no better use than the videotape gained from the press box. Many coaches stated that the coaches who give the signals change them often enough that any info gained from quarter to quarter is only relevant for a short period of time. Many coaches stated that the Patriots didn't do anything that all 31 other teams in the NFL don't already do. Because of the severity of the fine and the media blitz that dubbed the Patriots "cheaters", the football public, at large, has vilified the New England football franchise, especially the head coach, Bill Belichick.

Enter Week 8 of the 2007 NFL season. The Pats were leading the Washington Redskins( who many in the media thought had a good chance of upsetting the Pats) 38-0 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. At this point in the game it is customary for the offense to run the ball on three plays, punt the ball to other team and play tough "D" in order to preserve a shutout. The Patriots chose instead to try to score again. It is within the rules of the game to try to score when on offense. The Redskins offense was still trying to score and did get one touchdown. The Patriots scored 2 touchdowns in the last quarter to win the game 52-7. Did the Redskins "give up" and put in their second string players? No. Then why should the Patriots? To show mercy? Last I looked there is no mercy rule in the NFL; it is not Little League. How much mercy did the league, media and other "haters" show the Pats mercy for a minor rules infraction? None.

Around the league players, coaches and fans are once again vilifying the Patriots, but now for running up the score. They are talking revenge and talking about retribution and veiled threats (intentionally hurting Brady). The Patriots are sticking it to the NFL within the rules of the game. Mr. Belichick is proving the point that all of those conspiracy theorists who tried to equate videotaping some coaches signals with the success of a franchise that won 3 Super Bowls within four years is ludicrous. The Patriots turned over all their tapes the week after the Jets game to the NFL and have played every game since under incredible scrutiny. They have gone out and, with in the rules, embarrassed the rest of the NFL and won each of their eight games by a 25 point margin on average. This trend will continue. Many of the same players and media types who called the Patriots out for being cheaters are the same players and media types whining about the Patriots putting a beat down on the rest of the league.

One has to think, would this unsportsmanlike display of taking no prisoners by the Pats be taking place if the league and the media had not treated the Patriots like Hitler invading Poland? The punishment outweighed the crime in the case of "Spygate". The league wanted to make an example of someone , the way a teacher sends a kid to the principals office the first day of school. The problem is that commissioner Goodell picked the smartest, wittiest kid to send to the principals office and now that kid is going to torture that teacher all school year long. When you humiliate someone by questioning their integrity, ability and accomplishments, then what do you expect? One answer. Pain.

Real Football fans know that videotaping has little to no bearing on the Patriots former and current success. The game is played on the field and the Patriots have few equals when it comes to performance and execution on gameday, as evidenced by their play over the last six years. As one never afraid to make predictions, I told my brother Mark minutes before the San Diego game which was played the week that "Spygate" blew up that San Diego would get blown out and that the theme would continue through Super Bowl Sunday. The NFL and the media has given Coach Belichick an invaluable gift, incentive. In the Pats locker room its us against the world. This is a war and everyone is the enemy. There will be no mercy, there will be no prisoners, everyone will pay and everyone will suffer.

Thank you Roger Goodell, Chris Collinsworth, Wade Phillips and the countless other "Patriots Haters" who have added fuel to the fire. I made my preseason predictions before "Spygate" was an issue, so I couldn't factor these issue intop the equation. If I may add-on to my earlier predictions: Pats 19-0, 4th Super Bowl in 7 years.

If your team is not the football franchise from New England then God have mercy on you and your team. Its gonna get uglier.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Swear I'm Not Gay

I am hetero, through and through. I have no interest in sausage. I love vagina. I love curves. I hate hair. That being said, I have some serious crushes I've developed over the past few months and these crushes are on men. Could I be gay? Am I bi? I feel as confused as a 12 year old boy finding out that that Dumbledore is gay (I always thought Harry was. OK I've never read a single line of Harry Potter).

Let me tell you about my man crushes.

"The Role Model"

Matt Ryan



Boston College quarterback. This guy is the all-American boy. I wish my son was about 10 years older, so he would have "Matty Heisman" as his hero and role model. He is as poised in front of the camera as he is in the 2 minute drill. At the college level, he has it all, good looks, an 8-0 record and a shot at the BCS National Championship. If there ever was a "BMOC" (big man on campus) he would be it. At 22 years old he will be a number 1 pick in this April's NFL draft making him rich and handsome. I like 'em young.



"The Bad Boy "

Josh Beckett

I love this guys attitude. He has the Clemensesque sneer without the cockiness. His disheveled appearance matches his "I don't give a shit what you think" attitude (man is that sexy!). He is young, 27 years old, but is one of the most accomplished pitchers in playoff history. He is the best pitcher in baseball on the best team in baseball playing in the best sports town in baseball. The world is his oyster and I'm happy to be swimming in the same ocean. He's a "bad boy" without the rap sheet or the tabloid fodder. I absolutely love this guy!

"The Man"

Tom Brady

There is not a man on the planet that doesn't want to be Tom Brady. He has it all. Giselle, Bridget, a baby boy, 3 going on 4 Super Bowl rings, Saturday Night Live, GQ, Goats and the list goes on and on. Tom would get a reach around and I would not expect one in return, he's that hot. How many guys can knock up one gorgeous woman, start dating a supermodel and lead your team to the AFC Championship game in a two month span? Only #12.

Honorable Mention (Not quite reach-around worthy, but close)

Randy Moss- He would be my bad boy, if he were being bad. He has decided instead of smoking weed, mooning fans, squirting water bottles at refs, running over cops and leaving the field before the game is over, to catch touchdowns and torch defenders. I don't have a crush, but I'd do him if I was drunk (or stoned).



Mike Vrabel- Steeler cast off has become a Pats mainstay. I love his versatility and get all tingly inside when he scores on offense. Nine career receptions, nine touchdowns. This guy knows how to score!! Yum.



Big Papi- Clutch. I love him. He gets taken for granted because its just expected that he will perform. I am not attracted to "Bears", but if I were, Papi would fit the bill.



Well, am I gay? Maybe. What do you care? Who gives a shit? Gay or not I love these guys and have big time crushes. I am star struck and as giddy as a school girl whenever I watch them perform.

As I was transfixed to the TV this morning watching a NESN report about Matt Ryan's performance against V Tech Thursday night, my boy was trying to get my attention. I didn't get what he said, but came out of my "Matty Heisman "daze in time to hear my wife tell him " he didn't hear you, he is to busy watching his boyfriend". I guess my man- crushes are transparent and obvious. Can't a guy have a crush?



Thursday, October 18, 2007

One of the Beautiful People


Yesterday I played golf at the exclusive Dedham Polo and Country Club. I grew up in the Fairmount Projects in Hyde Park about five miles, as the crow flies, from the manicured lawns and sculpted grounds of the club. In Western Massachusetts, where I now reside, taking a five mile trip in any direction brings you, pretty much, to another friendly burg similar to your own. In Boston, five miles brings you to another world. We pulled in to the parking lot of the club at around 9:30 AM in my friend Hiroshi's 1998 Mercedes. Thank God we didn't take my Grand Cherokee or Chris's Explorer because they would have stuck out amongst the Jaguars, BMW's and Mercedes. I am sure the members thought we were roughing it in Hiroshi's decade old car, but assumed that his garage must be minding his late model Aston Martin, Porsche or Maserati.


One of my regular golf partners, Steve, (who happens to be my wife's second cousin, as well as her Scotch league partner) was able to gain us entry into this world of the privileged through his secretary, whose son is the course superintendent. As a child attending a private, catholic school I was one of the few indigent children in a world of the upper middle class. Throughout my life I have been able to shift seamlessly between social strata. I can morph into anybody from a CEO to a barfly. The key? Act like you belong. If you are there (country club or crackhouse), as long as you aren't dressed completely out of place (like wearing a suit in a dive bar(cop) or a "got milf?" t-shirt for drinks at The Ritz) then people assume you belong and will accept you as one of their own.


The attendant delivered our clubs to the driving range from our car and we spent 15 minutes hitting balls and shooting the shit. There was not another soul on the expansive range. We were greeted by the pro who told us to head to the first tee at our convenience and not to rush; there were no tee times for quite a while after us. It was a quintessential fall day in Eastern Massachusetts. The leaves were changing. The morning fog was burning off. The temperatures were in the low 60's and the course was dewy. It was a shame the course was empty, it seemed like such a waste. We teed off at 10 AM and started our way around the hilly track. The greens were fast and firm. On every hole there were groundskeepers working feverishly to trim the fairways and blow stray leaves off the greens. I was starting off slowly, struggling with muscle memory not having played for two weeks. Golf for me during the past few years has been bittersweet. Since my sons were born I can't play often enough to maintain my 8 handicap, but I occasionally regain my former swing just enough to play acceptably.


Midway through the front nine I was soaking in my surroundings. I admired the stone walls built along the roads bordering the grounds and gazed at the changing foliage. I then came upon a grounds keeper repairing a sand trap on the left side of the fairway, where my ball seemed to be slicing all day (I am a lefty). He was a dark skinned man of Hispanic decent. As I approached my ball next to the bunker I said "Hi". He smiled and looked down, avoiding eye contact. I speak fluent Spanish and I'm sure he understood "hi", but his body language spoke volumes. For the next few holes I was troubled. Why should this man have lowered his gaze? I am no better than him. I grew up in squalid, destitute surroundings no more than five miles from here. I felt out of place. The pretension and hubris of the place hovered over my walk down the tenth fairway.


My guilt was short lived having a $10 Nassau to contend with and the comforting fact that this man had a job; his prodigious mid section assured me that he wasn't starving. My game picked up knowing we lost the front and were four down on the overall with only eight holes to go. Hiroshi and I heroically won the back nine by one, only losing 10 dollars of the Nassau and four buck on other side bets. Upon completion of the round we thanked the pro for the round and made our way to the car. People at exclusive clubs (which I have been privy to quite a few in my golf travels) always look happy. Smiling faces and politeness are traits that are easy to come by in such beautiful surroundings. In stark contrast, at my blue collar course, f-bombs echo throughout the place. The drinking is heavy and the scowls are many. The parking lot at my club is filled with pick-up trucks, many with the logo of the plumber or builder's business who drives it. The "nineteenth hole" can be described as a place where golfers drink. My club has been described as a place where drinkers golf.


I won't pack my clubs away for the year, I never do, but this is probably my last "trip" of the year. I was a beautiful day, at a beautiful course and, for a day, I got to be one of the beautiful people.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Orgy Recap

Whew, am I frickin' beat up.

I don't have the stamina I used to have, but not too bad for someone looking down the other side of the hill.

Sox split. Disappointing, especially since Eric Gagne gave up the winning run to the Indians and I didn't even want to see him make the post season roster. As I was mopping up stale beer at 1:30 in the morn I had to endure a 7 run 11th inning all started by Eric Gagne's weak right arm. The Sox have professional hitters and after patiently pummelling Cleavland's number 1 and 2 starters, should feast off of Westbrook tonight.

UMass won in quadruple overtime. I was at home watching the beginning of the BC game vs Notre Dame when UMass finally pulled out the victory; I left in the third quarter when I almost fell asleep in my seat. The game was that boring and I was that tired. As soon as we left the offenses picked up. My lethargy must have been contagious.

BC put a beatdown on Notre Dame, but only went from #4 to #3 in the country. South Florida beat Central Florida and went from 5th to 2nd. WTF!!!

The Pats demolished Dallas. T.O. says "They good, but I can't say they the best team." Are you shitting me? They are averaging 40 points per game and just beat a 5-0 team with the second leading offense in the NFL, and oh yeah have the top ranked defense.

Hey, T.O., shut the fuck up!!

Working the door? Uneventful. The usual puking coeds. The usual bumping and grinding. The usual liberal drug use. Shittier tips than usual, but no blood spilled. I'll call it a wash. Time to eat dinner and settle down to watch "Dice K" earn his money and shut down the injuns.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Orgy

Have any of you been to an orgy? I've participated in a few. If you haven't had the pleasure then you don't know what you are missing. This weekend's orgy will last from 6 PM tonight and last until 8 PM Sunday. A long time to "maintain" you say? You do have to pace yourself, for sure. Let me give you a breakdown.

Friday at 6PM is the Red Sox pre-game on NESN. Sox and Indians face off at 7 PM for the first game of the ALCS. At about 9 PM I will head up to my buddy Hiroshi's golf club to work the door for him at a UMass sorority party (aka college orgy). I will catch the rest of the Sox game while supervising a bunch of drunk, scantily clad girls and Abercrombie wearing, striped-shirt boys who think they can hold their liquor and pick up chicks, but have no clue. The fun part will be catching a few panty or if I'm lucky, beaver shots, while the girls are bumping and grinding. The inevitable downside will be physically escorting inebriated frat boys out of the building. The other bummer will be that at Sorority parties the ratio of men to women are 2:1.

Saturday I will go to work, but may be taking my clients to see the #3 ranked (1AA) UMass Minutemen play Villanova. I should get home in time to plop on my couch to watch the #4 ranked Boston College Eagles play Notre Dame. I will have to listen to the end of that game on the radio as I am supposed to accompany my family to a house warming party for a friend of my wife at 6 PM. I will have to leave the party by 8:30 PM because I have to bounce another party at Beaver Brook, this time a frat party (better scenery, 2:1 ratio women to men). On the ride to Beaver Brook I will listen to the start of Game 2 of the ALCS. I will catch glimpses of the rest of the game between the bumping, grinding and puking.

Sunday I will spend the day watching the NFL. The weekend will reach its zenith when at 4:30 PM the 5-0 Patriots play the 5-0 Cowboys in Dallas. If I have any energy left I will fall asleep to game 3 of the NLCS, Rockies/Diamondbacks.

On Monday I will be spent, with only the visions of tight ends, bumping and grinding, wide receivers and balls flying all over the place.

I better nap this after noon.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Endless Summer

I am a creature of habit.

Change is part of the human condition and I do my best to fight the inevitable. For 42 years I have been a slave to my circadian rhythms. As the light starts to fade in mid-September I slow down. By January 1st I am in full hibernation mode and usually won't be seen or heard from until the Ides of March. I don't have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am not depressed. I just spend the months of April through September in such a state of mania that to maintain that pace throughout the entire year would surely kill me. I enjoy the winter. I enjoy staring out my window as the snow falls. I relish the solitude and introspection. When Spring comes though, I am ready to go full bore into the things I love and those things just happen to fall during the warmer, light filled months. This year was no exception. Starting with Opening Day at Fenway Park, I have been on a six month, non-stop, run of baseball, beach vacations, cookouts, golf outings, day trips and melted ice cream cones.

The difference between this year and all others is that the fun hasn't ended. Usually by now I am taking longer to get out of bed in the morning. Usually by now I've put the hammock and lawn furniture in storage. Usually by now the highlight of my week is hunkering down on my couch at 1 o'clock on Sunday to watch 10 hours of football, preferably with the rain falling outside and me enveloped in a thick blanket. This year, since the autumnal equinox when I usually start prepping my house for Winter, my weekends have been full ( playing in three golf tournaments and going to a college football game). Its hard to make yourself do chores when its 80 degrees and sunny.

The weather here in the northeast has been exceptionally mild for the time of year so my fall days have been a continuance of my days in the summer, pitching baseballs to my sons, walks to the park, peanut butter and jelly on the front steps. I have yet to remove the AC from my windows and store them in the garage due to the mild temperatures. The foliage change seems to be a month behind. The large Oak in my front yard and the Maple in my neighbors yard are as green as they were in June. My lawn is green and lush and without any sign of frost, continues to need mowing a few times per week.

The end of summer may come on November 4th. That's when Daylight Savings time ends and we lose an hour of daylight at the end of the day. This autumn it occurs a week later than usual. From 1986 to 2006 DST was the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, but starting in 2007, it is observed from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, adding about a month to daylight saving time. This has been great for commerce and energy savings, but for a creature of habit such as myself, it has pushed me to my limit.

As I sit here on another sun-splashed, 65 degree morning looking out the window at my lush lawn, green oak with nary a red, orange or yellow leaf in sight, I am awaiting fall. I need the cooler weather and the fading light to feel normal. Its only natural in October to have frost on the pumpkin, sweaters and fading sunlight. Fall is inevitable. The leaves will change, the north-wind will start to blow and I will start my hibernation. Until then its shorts and sandals.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Sins of The Father

I never ask for help.

Whether it be to ask for directions, need help with a work project or dealing with personal crisis I am completely self sufficient. I will begrudgingly accept help if offered, but only if I'm in way over my head or to appease the person offering the help, to make them feel better. As a kid in my neighborhood during pickup tackle football games or sandlot baseball games I was always a captain in charge of picking one of the teams. I would purposely pick an inferior line-up because it always felt better to win (or keep the game close) with less talent than to dominate over a weaker opponent.

I grew up with an over inflated ego. This was not due to constant, undeserved praise or coddling, but because from a very young age I knew that the adults in my life were fucked up and could sense that I was more in control of my emotions and reactions than almost every adult that I knew. My parents were an absolute mess. They never possessed an ounce of emotional regulation. The smallest of issues became huge fights in which ensued tremendous physical and emotional abuse. They divorced when I was seven, but my father was no where to be seen the last couple years of their marriage. He was around enough to knock her up a few more times, but soon disappeared into the selfishness and self-absorption of the 70's.

I don't talk about my father to anyone. Some of the things I witnessed as a young child are best kept in far recesses of my hippocampus. I don't have any regrets about my relationship with my father. To say that I have regrets would be to say I could have done something differently to change the situation. What I have concerning my father is more pity possible bordering on empathy. He never had a chance to enjoy his first set of children (he had six children with my mother, remarried and had another three, there could be others out there according to family lore). He never got to experience the unconditional love that comes with being a parent (my sisters profess to have loved him as they developed a relationship with him as adults, I doubt it was unconditional). He died a guilt ridden, painful death (my sisters tell me that he was calling out for me and my brother Greg during his last minutes on earth, although we have the same name, so the selfish bastard could have been calling out for himself).

A long time ago, while I was in my teens, I knew that I would never get an explanation as to why my father abandoned his family. My father was a low level criminal who was as full of shit as the day is long. He was a compulsive liar. Even as a seven year old I knew that he wasn't just embellishing a story to make it more interesting, he was an outright liar. My mother wasn't blameless in the situation, she had a myriad of emotional and mental health issues on her plate. In hindsight it was a good thing that they didn't remain together.

Of the many sins my father committed there are only two which I can't forgive.

The first is that he left my mother to raise five children (my brother Derek died at two months) with zero financial or emotional support. She had a stroke at 34 years old which left her paralysed on her left side and caused numerous other health problems until she died at 52 years old.

If he had helped her out financially even a little, at Christmas.

If he had taken us for weekend visits, once a year.

If he had been available for us kids to call him, to vent and receive validation.

Then maybe her burden would have been lessened just enough to keep her petite, frail body strong enough to raise her children to adulthood and maintain her sanity.

The other sin I will never forgive my father for is the fact that by not maintaining contact with us he robbed me of a relationship with the side of the family for which I am named. I never got to know my Uncle Tommy, his son Jimmy or his wife Connie. I never got to know my Uncle Jimmy. I did meet my Grandpa Sullivan a number of times, but never did anything with him, just sit in his apartment on Washington Street in Roslindale watching him and my dad smoke cigarettes. My Aunt Lorreta and her kids, Joey and Joanie kept in contact with us even after the divorce, but my father and mother were running so much interference with the situation that the relationship soured. My father went as far as to lie about our location to his sister. She didn't realize that we were still in the state until she read about my Grandma Norton's passing in the Boston Globe (I read this in a condolence letter she sent to my mother that I found amongst my mother's possessions when she passed). My brother's and sister's could have used all of the support possible when my father left, but instead we were left only with the Sullivan name.

This weekend I saw my cousin Jimmy for the first time in 40 years (read Jimmy's story here). I made contact with him August one year ago after seeing names on the grave where my brother Derek is buried and doing some Internet research about the Sullivan side of the family. I found Jimmy's (aka Suldog) blog and started reading. As I read stories about his life and some concerning family members I had never met I became angry. Angry at my father for denying me the chance to know my family, good or bad. Angry at my mother for not maintaining relationships for the sake of the kids. Angry at the Sullivan's for not wondering or caring about their nieces and nephews and their well being, knowing their brother had committed one of the worst crimes a man can commit, abandoning his offspring.

Moments and people from the past loom over our psyche and get bigger by each passing year.

When I got out of my Jeep after a two hour drive down the Mass Pike to Boston on Saturday I spotted my cousin Jimmy standing in front of the movie theater at Cleveland Circle, our rally point. As I got closer to my elder cousin I realized he was much smaller than I imagined. I am 6 feet and 200+, so most people are smaller, but in my mind he was my older cousin and I expected him to be bigger. I had the same feeling when I saw my father for the first time in over a decade at my sister Chris's wedding. I was 24 and hadn't seen my father since I was 13. When he introduced me to his wife Marie I barely looked at her, but was sizing him up. I promised my sister I would not pound him and it took every ounce of self restraint to not ruin her day (my brothers took the same oath and to this day we still haven't received any props). He looked frail and much smaller than I remembered. He had a tentative, frightened look in his eye. I wondered if it was the same look that I had when he broke down our front door during a fight with my mother. Jimmy had the same tentative look in his eye, but there was no fear or guilt. It was more the look you would have on the first day of school or a new job.

We walked up Chestnut Hill toward Alumni Stadium and a Boston College football game. We talked about our families, our lives and the sins of my father. After 40 years it was good to know that I had a connection to my surname and that there was another Sullivan that I could relate to. The sins of my father are buried with him. May they rest in peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena 6

Today in Jena, LA there is expected to be a gathering of at least 50,000 to protest the arrest and imprisonment of 6 black students who beat up a white student this past December. Read the story here. CapCity wrote a piece in her blog recently concerning this case and asked her readers to support the "Jena 6" by wearing black to support the students. I posted a comment on her site that was more like a post:

"I'll wear some black that day and I will pass along the story which has gotten little to no coverage here in the Northeast. (I Googled Jena 6 and read about 10 articles on the case.)I can't say that I condone violence of any kind including the beating of the white boy, but I can't say with a clear conscience that I wouldn't have done the same (I've done worse for less, we beat up people who wore orange on Saint Patty's Day because Orange symbolizes the Orange Order which marches through Catholic Belfast neighborhood's each summer to commemorate William of Oranges slaughter of the Irish 400 years ago. This is the cause of many of the riots in Northern Ireland during the past 40 years) I might actually kill if I were Black and saw nooses hanging in my or my children's school yard. I grew up in Boston during the early 70's when there was forced busing and the desegregation of schools. I don't agree with desegregation per say, but what the fuck is it with all the white kids hang here and all the black kids hang here? A white tree? Black bleachers? WTF!!!! Its 2007 and this shit is still an issue!?!My mother in law lives in Mississippi and segregation is alive and well. Its fucked up, but its the way everyone likes it Black and White alike. We should take some of that 10 billion per month we are spending on the war and we should have an empathic curriculum developed in all public schools which focuses on the struggles of every group that has come to the US, then exercise some good old American propaganda and emphasise that we are all Americans and not a country of separate, but equal people. We all live here and breathe the same air and watch the same shitty TV and eat the same crappy food which causes us to access the same dreadful health care and should focus on togetherness and the future of the good ol' USA. I just erased three more paragraphs because I realized that this was becoming a post not a comment."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 6:50:00 PM

This case was highlighted on the "Today" show this morning as well as the "Boston Globe" and my local paper.

We need to dissolve this separate, but equal society we live in. 99% of our existence as human beings has nothing to do with the color of our skin, the god or gods we pray to or the country we live in. The majority of our time here on earth is managing our interpersonal relationships in order to meet our own individual needs (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs).






People need to focus on themselves as individuals and not as the member of a group.

This contradicts slightly my heat of the moment statement ("We all live here and breathe the same air and watch the same shitty TV and eat the same crappy food which causes us to access the same dreadful health care and should focus on togetherness and the future of the good ol' USA. ") , but when the majority of people who immigrated to America (of their own free will), it was as individuals, separated from family, friends and birth-country.

Individual thought and individual actions are as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.

That said, the rest of the world views us as a bunch of money grubbing, arrogant, loud, opinionated, violent thugs who have no morals or sense of their place in the world. Whatever skin color you have, this is the world view of us and as long as we continue to have inequities like those in Jena, violent acts like those in Jena and segregated tribalism like that practiced in Jena then we are a country of hypocrites.

I fucking hate hypocrites.

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right."
Thomas Paine