Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
"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.
I picked Dallas and said that this division is the best in football. I am "Karnack" reborn.
Tampa Bay has been a surprise, but I'll stick with my picks of Nola and Lina.
"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.
"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
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.
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
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.
More to come tomorrow.
Monday, November 05, 2007
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?
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.
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.
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.