Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where Were You When.....

Sunday morning I was listening to Bob Costas's syndicated radio show on Sports Radio WEEI (WVEI here in Western Mass) while taking my shower. The topic of discussion was rating the top "Where were you" moments I started thinking about some of these famous benchmarks. It is amazing how vividly the memories of where I was and what I was doing during these events are recalled. In addition to the major events of the past fifty years I thought up of some that were relevant to me, being a New England sports fan.

Here are some of both in no particular order:


I was watching the Today Show drinking coffee. It was one of those crystal clear early fall days with nothing but blue skies above. I went out to my yard to chip a few golf balls around. When I came back in, Katie Couric was reporting that there was a fire in the WTC that might have been cause by an aircraft hitting the building. As I was sitting down on my couch I saw a plane hit the other tower. I was confused as to why Matt and Katie weren't screaming like the dude who broadcasted the Hindenburg going down. I chalked it up to it being footage of the first plane hitting. I called my wife to inform her that the apocalypse was upon us. While relaying what little I knew of the situation the Today show crew belatedly informed us that a second plane had hit the other WTC tower, a full five minutes after I saw it happen live on their broadcast. I guess they had to confirm their sources. I tried to talk her into coming home so we could have sex one last time before the world ended. She saw through my ploy. Seconds after hanging up my buddy Billy came bounding through my door. "Man your stations, fire up the ICBM's, is your bunker fully stocked?" screaming like a madman. We spent the next hour flipping between CNN, MSNBC and Fox contemplating whether or not to take our annual golf trip scheduled for early November. Within two hours I put an American flag I remember having in my spare room on my mailbox in a spontaneous show of Patriotism.

First Man on the Moon

I was four years old and had just spent he day taping an episode of "Romper Room", a childrens TV show. I had a two week run on the show playing games, eating snacks and being a good "do bee". We were all pawns in "Ms. Jean's" (the jovial host of the show) happy-go-lucky world. The show was known for her looking into her mirror at the end of the show each day to see if you were a "do bee" or a "don't be". My claim to fame was calling Ms. Jean a bitch when she wouldn't give me more milk during snack time (I guess my parents had been fighting a lot that week). That tidbit must be on the cutting room floor. My Aunt, who was filming the show with her handheld Super8 was probably looking around for a "Doobie" after hearing that pop out. At home I was tuckered out, lying on the floor asleep when those grainy pictures of Armstrong made it onto the screen. My parents panned back and forth from the TV with history being made to me sleeping. Big whoop, its not like martians came down and said "take me to your leader" who would have been.......

Nixon Resigns

I was visiting my Aunt Carol in Easthampton, Massachusetts which for a kid living in Boston might as well have been Missouri. It was the first time thinking that people in power don't stay there too long (unless your name is Ted Kennedy)

Elvis Dies

I was at Camp Howe in Goshen, MA waiting in line to go into our weekly dance when word spread through the line about the passing of the "King". The first song the DJ played that night was "Jail House Rock" the next was "Stairway to Heaven". We all thought that was soooo profound. I secretly thanked Elvis for inspiring the DJ to play a slow song so early in the night and enabling me to bury my face into Ann Rhoades chest (who was a year older and six inches taller) an hour earlier than I had planned.

Shuttle Challenger Explodes

I was on my girlfriend's couch making out with her. The newsflash broke into the soap opera she was watching during make out breaks. We looked at each other, shrugged and got back down to business.

Reagan Shot

I was at Northampton High baseball practice. I was on deck in a scrimmage. I was a sophomore trying to make varsity. The news came via a phys ed. instructor who came down to the field to tell the coach. Coach cancelled the rest of practice and sent everyone home. The next day the rosters came out and I was sent down to junior varsity on the last cut. If I had done something big during that at bat would I have made varsity? We all know the outcome. Hinckley was no DiNero. I was on JV. Regan recovered and his "trickle down economics" kept me below the poverty line until the early nineties.

"Snow Game"

I was there!! (I'll save this one for later)

Super Bowl XX
The highlight of that day was watching my 14 year old brother Greg puking all over my apartment trying to match my roommate and I beer for beer. He drank for two hours. He puked for about four. I remember telling him before he passed out for the night, the Patriots won 3-0 and that Tony Franklin was the MVP.

Super Bowl XXXI
I was semi-conscious when Desmond Howard put the nail in the coffin with his kick return. I was drinking some kind of concoction that my friend brought back from Puerto Rico that had twigs and berries and raisins in it. The next day was one of my top five hangovers.

Super Bowl XXXVI
I spent the first half of the game at my MR clients house cooking burgers and hoping the Pats could keep the game within the 17 points I got from my bookie. I got home midway trough the third quarter and for the first time thought the Pats could actually be Super Bowl Champs. I had cried over the Red Sox dozens of times in my life, but never the Pats. When Brady started making completions during that final drive I got goosebumps for the first time ever watching a Patriots game. When Vinateri sealed the deal I started welling up. My wife asked if I was crying, not believing what she was seeing. I sheepishly squeaked, "yes". I know she was thinking "Why did I marry such a pussy".

Super Bowl XXXVIII
Watched the game at my sister-in-law's house. I put my 10 month old son Matt in a Patriots outfit and gorged myself on wings. No Booze. A.V. once again.

Super Bowl XXXIX
I spent most the game playing with my son. He fell asleep by halftime. No booze. I am officially grown up..... Yeah, right.

Game 6 1975

My mother let me stay up to watch all thirteen innings on a crappy 13 " black and white we had in our bedroom, as long as I kept the volume off (as to not wake up my two sleeping brothers). When Fisk started his dance up the first baseline I got goosebumps for the first time ever watching a sporting event. I've got them now while I write.

1978 Playoff
I ran home from school. I bounded through the door; my mother was watching the game. I sat down to watch and Yaz was up. They were doing a split screen of a Yaz interview and his at bat. He cranked one and before the ball landed I was calling my friend Rich Stewart, a Yankees fan, to rub it in. Two hours later, seconds after Yaz popped weakly to third my phone was ringing. I didn't pick up.

Game 6 1986
My wife had gone to a wedding with her Mom and her mom's boyfriend with whom she lived. I had only been dating my wife for six months so I wasn't "family wedding date worthy" as of yet (and it could be argued that I'm still not). I stayed at their house with some Bud Light to keep me company. When the ball scooted through Billy B's bowed legs I chucked a beer at the wall above the TV. Luckily they were too liquored up when they returned to notice the stain on the wall. It dried by the next morning.

Game 5 ALCS 2004
I spent the afternoon golfing at Taconic in Williamstown. It was a cold, overcast October day in the Berkshires. After walking 18, Hiroshi (the owner of my home course) and I shared some "puff". Smoking pot for me is like playing Russian Roulette, I bug out one out of every six times. As we drove around Mount Greylock down Route 2 it felt as if the car was turning upside down. I got home and curled up into the fetal position. After an hour, the game came on. As the game progressed I started feeling better. When Big Papi singled home the game winning run I started to "Believe".

Game 4 2004 WS
I lay in bed sobbing uncontrollably when Foulke flipped the ball to Mientkiewicz. I was going to get my infant son Matt out of bed when there were two outs, but the water works were already starting; I was afraid I'd drop him. I fielded phone calls from my brother Greg and friend Eric while my wife slept next to me, peacefully.

April 29, 1986
This is my favorite. I had met my wife early in April of '86 when she was going to a Rush concert with my brother Mark and a few of his friends. I did a "packy" for them. I asked my brother about her, but they rushed out to see Rush. Over the next few weeks she kept showing up at the apartment (which was populated by eight of us that paid rent and many others that passed out there). My bro told me at some point that she liked me. We hung around, but not much happened, make out wise. The night of the 29th she was over to see me. My roommate Jeff was watching the Sox in the living room while we lounged on a chair in the backyard. The apartment was uncharacteristically quiet as Jeff and I were the only roomates home. It was that week in the spring when the buds turn to leaves and the smell of green was in the air. The backyard was dark and we shared some soft, thoughtful kisses. Every once in awhile I would hear a "wooooo" coming from the open window in the living room. I went over to the window and asked Jeff what was going on. He said that "the new kid Clemens was up to 14 strike outs". I alternated between the inviting chaise lounge and the flickering TV light in the window. I listened at the window as Ned Martin screeched "a new record!!". I excitedly ran back to the lounge to tell my wife to be. She mimicked my excitement. We lay together on the lounge. Everything in the world was perfect.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I Was Born A Poor Black Child

Today if you drove through the neighborhood I grew up in you would think that I was born a poor black child. Unlike Navin Johnson (Steve Martin's character in his timeless, comic masterpiece "The Jerk") I knew I was white. You couldn't help knowing you were white growing up in the Hyde Park section of Boston in the 60's and 70's. Two words: Forced Busing. Not only did you know you were white, you knew you were Irish. Every kid in my neighborhood had an Irish surname, Burke, Whelan, Brady, Hurley, Norton, McGonagle, Flynn, Galvin...Costa (we had one Italian kid nicknamed "the mini-guinea"; as the name implies he was a short guinea). We had one black family and one hispanic family in "the projects". The Fairmount Development was the whitest of the projects in Boston with maybe the exception of those in Southie. Family lore is that my dad's Uncle Jimmy, who had been a Mass. State Rep. pulled some strings to get my mother and father in there soon after I was born. It had the reputation as being one of the cleanest and nicest developments in the city. It borders Milton on one side, so there was this feeling that we were almost in the Suburbs. This proximity to people owning their own houses and cars that weren't two-toned and rusting gave many of those growing up there a sense that the projects weren't the end of the road. It gave others the ample opportunity to hone their skills as car thieves and burglars.

We were the poorest of the poor families living in the projects. My father left when I was seven, after impregnating my mother six times, once with twins, in seven years. After my brother Derek died (two months old) and my father left, my Aunt Rosie moved in to our two bedroom apartment raising the tally to two adult women, three boys and two girls in about 800 square feet. We were the U.S. version of "Angela's Ashes" poverty, dead babies, tea and cigarettes.

My mother, god rest her soul, somehow found a way to send me and my brother Mark to Catholic School which was great for our education, but horrific for our self-esteem. Being the early 70's busing was a boon for the Catholic schools . The parents that did not want to move to the suburbs to avoid having their kids bussed from Hyde Park to Roxbury or elsewhere sent their kids to Catholic Schools. These kids weren't the lower middle-class kids that populated the Catholic schools when my mother went to Mission Grammar School or Mission High School in the 50's and 60's. These were upper middle-class kids who had no problem reminding my brother and I on a daily basis how poor we were either directly by pointing out that our school blazers were not bought at through the school store(Bradlees specials) or bragging about their trips to Florida or Bermuda on school vacation. We had one black girl in our school, a few grades ahead of me, but we were the white equivallent: living in the projects, on welfare with chips on our shoulders.

We moved to Northampton, Massachusetts in February of 1977, but we might have well moved to the moon. You could not find anywhere in the Commonwealth more different than Hyde Park as Northampton. We moved into the projects, but unlike the projects in Boston these were privately owned subsidized apartments called "Hampton Gardens". There were no gardens in sight, but things were a lot rosier. For one we weren't the poorest family in the place (that title could be shared by a number of Puerto Rican families, whose extended families overflowed even the spacious four bedroom apartments). My Aunt stayed in Boston, so we now had four bedrooms for six of us. Another plus is I didn't get in my first fist fight for a week. Living in Hyde Park, two days didn't go by without someone punching me in the head or me punching someone in the head. That was refreshing. There was one huge change, Desegregation. What Judge Garrity couldn't do in Boston, my mother did with a 100 mile move due west. Hampton Gardens was a melting pot. Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Whites, Cats, Dogs living relative harmony. There was one scary moment the second day living there when four Puerto Rican kids ambushed me and my brother with snowballs (I was amazed how good they were at making and throwing snowballs being from such a hot climate), but it wasn't driven by a hatred for whitey; we were the new guys and needed to be initiated.

I had never talked to any black kids my age before moving to Northampton. My Grandma Norton had some black co-workers at Peter Bent/Brigham Hospital who would sneak me some desert from the cafeteria where they worked. I thought they were nice, but I always feared the black kids I would see getting on and off the train every time I would take the Orange Line into downtown Boston. The most common sentiment expressed about blacks in my Irish-Catholic en cleave was "Niggers Die". My mother was in the minority as far as her opinion about blacks. She never uttered the N-word and the few times she heard me say it, I got a good, well-deserved whack in the head. I quickly realized that my friends from Hyde Park were wrong, black kids didn't smell different (although their skin does get ashy if they don't lotion up), they weren't all thieves (if anything they stole a whole lot less than my friends in Boston) and you could see them at night, even if they weren't smiling.

My mother passed away in the Summer of 1999. That fall we had a an informal gathering at Saint Joseph's Cemetery in West Roxbury where her ashes are buried with my Aunt Rosie and Grandma Norton as well as thousands of other poor Irish-American Bostonians. After gathering at the cemetery I took my brother Greg and my sisters Deb and Chris back to 26 Woodglen Road in the Fairmount projects. They were amazed that we ever lived there having no recollection of the place. They couldn't believe we crammed seven people into such a small place. On that spectacular fall afternoon we were the only white faces around. The current residents must have thought "Damn Jehovah Witnesses, kids don't answer that door!!!". I watched my sister Deb while she surveyed the abject, color-filled surroundings and pronounced "I was born a poor black child.....".

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Another Stupid Opinion

Selfish, self-absorbed gen-xer's who grew up with Little League where everyone wins and no one feels bad.

Me, me, me...look at me I tied my shoes....I did my homework.....I ate my vegetables...look what I did. TELL ME WHAT A GREAT JOB I DID!!!

Constant validation.

These are the people who are doing the majority of the blogging out there. Don't get me wrong, there are some terrific things being written out there, but I am tired of reading about peoples kids and pets and vacations. I can't say that I would never write about my kids, pet (15 year old cat who I am purposely feeding re-called IAMS cat food hoping I hit the lottery; pets are obsolete once you have kids) or vacations, but I hope that I would only write about those things if there was semblance of an interesting story to share.

Being born in 1965 I don't fall into the Baby Boomer category, nor the GenX category, I am a "Tweener". Tweeners don't need the coddling and validation seeked by the GenXers. They don't have the sense of entitlement and hubris possessed by the Boomers. Tweeners are realistic and practical having to balance the "pie in the sky" thinking of their parents with the selfishness and insecurities of their younger siblings. Tweener's tend to think, unlike the GenXers, everyone loses ...lets minimize the damage. We didn't grow up with the optimism of Kennedy or the rah, rah of Reagan. We had Nixon, Ford, Carter. Cynicism.

I recently read that the average number of hits per blog out there is 1 hit per blog per day, which translates into lots of literary masturbation. I think that is the point of blogging ( blogging, not flogging) is self-gratification. I guess the point is I will never write anything here that screams look at me , look at me, tell me how great I am.....hopefully there will be some things that are entertaining and interesting, but it doesn't really matter....I'm just polishing my pulp!!