Monday, March 31, 2008

MLB 2008

Last year I predicted the World Series winner (see here). Baseball hasn't changed much since last year and my picks aren't much different. Without further adieu my 2008 MLB picks.

American League:
East: Reds Sox
Central: Detroit
West: Angels
Wild Card: Cleveland

Ok. So last year I predicted the Yankees demise. I was close. Joe Torre wasn't fired by Memorial Day, but the Yankees dug a hole they couldn't completely get out of. This year they will not make the playoffs as they completely implode. Money can't buy you love.

This year I like the Sox to win the East again. Cleveland will finish second to a resurgent Detroit for the Wild Card in the Central. The Angels will have a challenge from Seattle, but win the West running away.

National League:
East: Mets
Central: Cubs
West: Dodgers
Wild Card: Brewers

The Mets collapse of last year will not repeat itself. Santana will completely dominate weaker NL hitters and possibly win 30 games. The Cubs made a furious run after a tough start last year, but will cruise wire to wire to win the Central this year, although Milwaukee will be there close behind and take the wild card. The Dodgers will get a boost from Torre and squeak it out over the D-Backs.

ALDS/ALCS: Sox beat the Indians; Detroit beats the Angels. Sox beat the Tigers.

NLDS/NLCS: Mets beat the Brewers, Dodgers beat the Cubs. Mets beat the Cubs.

World Series:

Red Sox beat the Mets in six. Another demon exercised.

No Mookie.

No Buckner.

No Schiraldi or Stanley.

No excuses.

I'll check in at the All-Star break to gloat or make excuses. Nuff ced.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Newest, Most Favoritest, Politician

David Patterson, the new Governor of New York has snorted cocaine, smoked weed and had a bunch of extra marital sex. He is a true man of the people.

Move over Bill Clinton. John and Teddy Kennedy step aside. I've got a new favorite politician.

I don't know much about the man as he just came on to the national scene after Eliot "swallow bitch, don't" Spitzer got busted buying hookers. Both of these men committed morally suspect behavior, but there is a huge difference between the two. One is a hypocrite and one is a human being. As AG of New York Spitzer spent most of his life prosecuting people to the full extent of the law. He was merciless and known for his bulldog style. As he was busting some prostitution rings he was utilizing others. Patterson beat the press to the punch and decided to disclose his personal indiscretions as soon as he took office. I've never understood what people do in their personal life has to do with doing their job. Yes, I don't want a drunk plumber installing my new garbage disposal or a day care worker toking on a crack pipe before watching my kids, but since when is sainthood a prerequisite for being a politician. As I said, I don't know Patterson besides what I've read and seen, but as of right now I would trust this guy more than any politician ever.

This type of disclosure is unheard of, but times have changed and this will become the norm.


Who out there, born after 1950, can say they have never smoked weed, bumped some rails or have had some action on the side? For all two of you who haven't done one of those things, what else have you done? Have you cheated on your income tax? Have you coveted your neighbors wife? Have you lied to your spouse? Have you disrespected your parents?

We all lie, cheat, steal, sin in one form or another. The difference between true morality and hypocrisy is owning up to your faults and not letting pride and hubris run your life. It takes a lot of energy to keep up the facade of infallibility. Humility is much easier. I don't want my politicians worrying about their image, I want them worrying about us citizens.

I don't care if my mailman is into bestiality, I just want him to deliver my mail. I don't care that my landscaper grows weed, I just want him to cut my lawn. I don't care if my barber is a degenerate gambler, I just want him to give me a good haircut. I don't care if I don't care if the President of the United States gets a hummer in the Oval Office from an intern, I just want him to keep the economy in good shape, educate and care for our children and keep us out of senseless wars.

He who is without sin cast the first stone.

On second thought, the cat is staying inside when the mail truck comes rumbling down my street.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sull's Blog Turns One!!!

I've maintained this blog for one year as of this Saturday. Every five days or so I spend an hour or two banging away on my laptop, hunt and peck method, trying to archive my thoughts. In my first post I equated blogging to literary masturbation because its something you do by yourself for your own satisfaction (statistics show the number of hits the average blog gets per day is just above one). How did I find myself on this onanistic path? Here's the back story.

Late in the summer of 2006 I was driving home from a weeks vacation in Maine. My wife and two boys were in one car and I was in my Grand Cherokee loaded to the hilt with beach gear, suitcases and sand. Since we had separate cars I decided to detour south, down to Boston, instead of heading west, out to Western Massachusetts. Driving in my solitude toward the city of my birth and where I spent my formative years was an exercise in the art of melancholy. Crossing the Tobin Bridge into the city I could feel the weight of my past pressing down on me squeezing out long suppressed emotions. I didn't have a particular destination in mind, but I knew where I'd end up. I went to visit my mother's grave site.

My mother's ashes are buried in Saint Josephs Cemetery in West Roxbury in the grave site occupied by the remains of my Grandma Norton and Aunt Rosie. You could say that the three of them are my "Holy Trinity" as they were the three most important people in my life in my first twenty years of living. I didn't have a father growing up, but I had three mothers. I spent about a half hour there, thinking about them in life and how much they would enjoy my boys if they were here now. Instead of my usual "tour" which would include visiting various places in my old neighborhood I felt a strong urge to visit my brothers grave site. He was buried with the Sullivan's at New Cavalry Cemetery in Mattapan, a short ten minute ride through Roslindale, but a world away emotionally. Derek died as a two month old and buried with him was much of the connection to the Sullivan side of my family as my parents divorced shortly after.

As an adult I had only visited Derek's grave once. In 1995 I had work related business in Boston. I had remembered that my mother said that Derek was buried "up on Walk Hill road", so I drove over to American Legion Highway and turned up Walk Hill road. There are a number of cemeteries in that area of the city, so I visited a few before I found the one I was looking for. I went to the gate house in each cemetery and gave them the pertinent information in order to find the grave site. The first two cemeteries were a no go, then at the third the man behind the counter said "well, we do have a grave site with a Thomas Sullivan and an Anne Sullivan, but no Derek. Just a "baby boy" Sullivan died 1970". As I drove through the chasms of headstones windshield wipers working frantically I saw the site. I didn't even have to look at the names. The familiarity of the place struck me in the gut as I remembered being here as a child. I walked over to the four foot tall stone bearing the name SULLIVAN in large raised block lettering. Upon reading the names on the gravestone I knew I was in the right place, but something was missing... my brothers name. The autumn rain got colder and intensified. I stood there crying. My heart hardened. It couldn't get much harder.

Now I was back at Derek's grave ten years later. It was hot and dry. My anger with Sullivan's had died with my father's passing in 1997. I hadn't been back to his grave since that rainy November day, but found it immediately. I thought about what he'd look like now. Would he be a good guy? Would he be happy? Would he love me? After a few minutes of sobbing and contemplation I started perusing the names on the grave. Anne T., Daniel J., James E.. I started making connections with the names. I knew that Thomas C. Sr. was my grandfather and Thomas C. Jr. was my uncle. I knew that Daniel J. was my great-grandfather and that James E. was my father's uncle Jimmy who used to live with my Auntie Pat over on Hyde Park Ave. There were give or take another eight names there and it sparked my interest in who were the people I was named after. I went to my car and got an eraser less pencil I got to keep score while playing golf at The Ledges in York, ME a few days earlier. I wrote in large block lettering above the top name on the stone "Derek 1970". I got in my car and headed west.

As soon as I walked in my house I started Googling names of the people I had seen on the stone. Almost immediately I came across a website called "Political Graveyard". Its a site dedicated to achieving all of the burial places of dead politicians. I knew through my mother that the Sullivan's had "connections", but thought all of them were nefarious as my father was know as a small time criminal. I was shocked to see that my grandfather and uncle and many great uncles, have all held elected office in Massachusetts. I even saw that my cousin Jimmy who I hadn't seen since I was three ran for Mass. State Rep. I googled Jimmy's name and there it was, Sul-Dog-O-Rama, Jimmy's blog. I started reading his stories, thoughts and commentary. I spent the good part of two days studying his blog, looking for keys or clues to my past. I came across an entry he had titled "The Gift". In the post he describes a gift he bought my "Auntie Ba" and when describing the scene on Christmas Day eludes to "couple of infants, the boy's cousins". "That's me!" I thought. At that point I knew I had to make a connection, but when and how? Then in an ironic twist that could only occur in a life as twisted as mine my cousin Jim posted about the death of my cousin Joey. I had some relationship with Joey even after my parents divorce because Joey lived close to my home in Hyde Park. We occasionally got together to cause trouble, but as we got older his trouble was much more dangerous that that I liked to partake in, so we drifted apart. I emailed Jimmy my memories about Joey because I couldn't figure out how to post them to his blog comments. At that point we shared some emails and I started becoming a regular commenter on his blog. I admired his writing abilities and penchant for storytelling.

I wanted to start a blog, but knew with two small boys and a job and no time that it would be years until I could write. Why did I want to blog? Lets see I'm opinionated, I think highly of myself, I like to bullshit; seems like I was made to blog. Last March I wrote my first entry titled "Another Stupid Opinion". I hope I have been true to the sentiment expressed in that post that I promised that if anything my blog would be entertaining.`70+ blog entries later I don't really have a sole purpose for my blog besides archiving stories, dispensing my opinion about sports and social/political issues and pulling the occasional laugh. I can't promise you anymore than you've seen this past year except maybe more stories about drunkenness, stupidity, learning the hard way and life. "Bluster and Blarney Since 1965" describes my blog right under the title at the top of the page. One of my prized (and I mean that with all sincerity) employees Tim McGonagle probably best describes my blog with a description of my blog in his blogroll:

Sull's Blog: My boss Sully's blog. Very entertaining Masshole memoirs.

Masshole Memoirs.

That about sums it up.

Monday, March 17, 2008

26 + 6 = 1

I spent the last few weeks reading Malachy McCourt's "History Of Ireland", mainly while on the cardio machines at the gym. The book condenses 2,500 years of Irish history into 400 pages of entertaining and insightful reading. I grew up in a predominantly Irish-Catholic neighborhood in Boston and through osmosis learned much about the history of Ireland. I am about 75% Irish, give or take a few percentage points, but if anyone knows anything about Irish history you know that Ireland has been invaded by so many outsiders that few from the Auld Sod can claim pure, unadulterated, Irish blood.

Irish symbolism was everywhere in my childhood from Irish flags flying from the flagpoles, directly beneath the American flag of my more affluent neighbors, to the cloth shamrocks we would sew into the collars of our jackets. I used to see a bumper sticker that I knew had something to do with Ireland, but never understood it until I was in high school. It said "26 + 6 = 1". Next to the equation was an image of the complete island of Ireland. This is in reference to a uniting of the complete island of Ireland, which would consist of the 26 counties of the country that is now known as The Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland which is part of Britain. The British have been invading and inflicting themselves upon their island neighbors to the west as far back as the beginning of recorded history. The terrorism that developed in the 70's through the 90's was aimed at ending British rule over Northern Ireland and having a united, complete country.

As a kid I never gave "The Troubles", as the problems in the North were called, a thought. I was not aware that many of the illegal activities such as gambling, gun running, extortion and drug selling that we were part of life in the city of Boston was a means of funding the Irish Republican Army, the terror organization that was trying to force the British out of Ireland. Many of the Irish social organizations that would march in the parade through South Boston each March were funneling money 3000 miles across the Atlantic to fund the terror campaign against the British. Many legitimate business owners and people also funded the IRA. When I was older and heard rumors of local peoples involvement in the IRA it was confusing to me that people that lived so far away would care so much about a place they left. Until I did my own reading and learning did I understand that the British used every terrorist tactic to keep the "unruly" Irish people in line for hundreds of years. They used rape, starvation, torture, imprisonment in their efforts to conquer and subdue an entire island nation.

In reading Mr. McCourt's book I had an epiphany ( James Joyce first coined the term) of sorts. I realized that the struggles in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland's struggle to become independent is similar to the plight of the Black man in the United States. Both have had to endure living in the midst of people that hate them based on racial identity. Both have had their women raped. Both have had horrible atrocities committed against them in the name of law. Both have been treated sub-human.

Can we condemn Black youth and Black leaders for being militant and being bitter after the years of abuse that was inflicted upon them at the hands of the same government that was supposed to protect them? At least in the case of the Irish, with the exception of a few broken treaties, the British never promised the Irish anything, but pain and suffering to please the crown. 70 and 80 years after gaining independence the Irish were still so bitter that they were willing to commit violence to reach their goal of a united Ireland. The violence of the 60's that many Blacks still alive today experienced first hand have hardened many a black man. Fortunately for the United States, Martin Luther King, a proponent of non-violent change was the leader of the Civil Rights movement. His non-violent protest, I feel, is the basis for relative peace that is place in the North of Ireland today. Acts of non-violence like Bobby Sands hunger strike in the 80's and Gerry Adams disarming of the IRA in the 90's led to the "Good Friday Accord" in 1998 part of which states that when a majority of those living in Northern Ireland vote on it and are in agreement, that the English will leave the North and the Republic of Ireland will for the first time in history, be whole.

An Irish Blessing

May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.

For a thoroughly entertaining view on having some Irish blood coursing through your veins check out Friday's post at my cousin Jimmy's place, click here Sul-Dog.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Top 5 - Hangovers

Saturday night I went to a surprise birthday party for my friend Sammy. His birthday was the 26th of February, but his wife held the party on Saturday March 1st which made it an even bigger surprise. I've known his wife, Marisol, long before he moved to the mainland from Puerto Rico back in 1990. She was one of the first Puerto Ricans I ever met when I moved to Northampton Massachusetts from Boston way back in 1977. Her brothers Manny and Hector were amongst my best friends growing up. When I RSVP'ed for the party I mentioned that it was my birthday on the 1st.

The party was held at the VFW hall in Florence. Start time was 6 O'clock, but my wife took me out for a birthday dinner prior to the party so we showed up at 7 PM, fashionably late. A bunch of guys from my old neighborhood were there, plus guys I used to play softball with, so the beers started flowing...and flowing...and flowing. At one point the lights went down and Marisol came out with a birthday cake for Sammy. Everyone sang Happy Birthday then got back to the business at hand, drinking. A few minutes later Marisol came out of the kitchen with another lit birthday cake. In my drunken haze I didn't make the connection until she started toward me, laughing. My face turned from the pinkish glow I had from my slight state of inebriation to a deep scarlet brought on by embarrassment. It was a nice surprise and found out later that even my lovely wife had hidden the surprise from me. As soon as folks realized that it was my birthday too, the flood gates opened. I didn't spend another minute the rest of the evening without a drink in hand. What was going to be an evening of dinner and a few drinks with friends had morphed into a night of full blown Bacchanalia.

Sunday morning was hell. The dim light peeking into my bed from beneath the shades was blinding. My wife, taking mercy on me, kept the kids occupied while I lay in bed wondering if I were dying. I have always had a high tolerance for alcohol. I've never blacked out, but have definitely done some stupid, fucked up things while cocked. Saturday night wasn't one of them. I basically got drunk, went home and went to sleep. If I drink water right before bed I can usually avoid a prolonged hangover and function. Saturday night I was so drunk I walked in the house, walked to the fridge, looked in, looked at the sink and then walked to my bed. I didn't have enough energy to get a cup and turn on the water, thus massive hangover instead of run of the mill hangover. As I lay in bed past noon (my wife usually doesn't show much mercy, but it was my birthday "weekend", so she was extra understanding) I thought about how this hangover compared with other memorable hangovers. I can never rate which hangover was the worst because hangovers are like childbirth, once they are over you forget how bad they were thus get drunk/have a baby again. Here, in no particular order are my Top 5 Most Memorable Hangovers:

Spring 1980

You never forget your first. I had been a seasoned drinker since I was 13. Always in moderation, never drunk. We would steal beer from parents coolers or fridge's and drink one, two tops. Just enough to get the beginnings of a buzz. Half the time we wouldn't even drink a full beer, but faked it just to be cool. I was now fifteen and went up to our local ball field armed with two bottles of Donelli Lambrusco that me and my friend Rich had an older kid in the neighborhood get for us. The red wine was warm and tangy going down. It burned coming back up. I stumbled to my house and up the stairs to my bedroom. I woke up in the morning and the room was spinning. My head was pounding. This was the first time I told myself that I would never drink again. The next weekend we upped the ante and got a case of Narragansett.

Winter 1985

I had gotten a job at a nursing home. Two nurses asked me to go out drinking at a bar just over the Vermont border in Brattleboro called "Flat Street". Since we were all 19 and the drinking age in Mass was 20 it made sense to drive 40 miles to VT where it was only 18. Besides, these girls were HOT, how could I say no? The night was a debacle. After making out with one of them on the dance floor the other, who was the driver, stormed out. I asked my dance/make out partner why her friend was so upset. She said that her friend had a crush on me, then turned and went after her friend. I went back to the bar firing down 100 Proof Vodka Collins thinking that the girls would come back in and that maybe they were just hashing out the details of the menage a trios that was to follow. They never came back.

The details of the rest of the evening were too many and are probably worthy of their own post, but the highlights were running into an old girlfriend, more making out, smoking weed, hitching a ride back to Massachusetts, getting into a fight, and waking up in a snowbank outside my apartment with the sun coming up. I lay in bed for a good part of three days only getting up to puke, piss or drink water. I was shaking like a leaf on a tree. This was most likely alcohol poisoning coupled with hypothermia, but I never went to the hospital. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

June 1992

I was on the Cape for a week with some clients from a residential group home I was managing. While one of my staff stayed sober with the clients me and my friends spent Sunday drinking. We started the day with Cape Codder's (Cranberry juice and Absolute) went to the beach with a few cases of beer, went back to the beach house to have dinner which consisted of steak and beer then went out to some bars to drink some more. I woke up the next morning with a run of the mill hangover or so I thought. I went into the bathroom to take a dump. Like most guys when I was done I took a look into the bowl to see what kind of masterpiece I created. I did a double take. A cold sweat washed over me from head to toe. There was a white log floating in the bowl. At first I thought that maybe it was a balled up piece of TP, but upon further inspection it was indeed a white shit. I called to my friend Mike to confirm and he said "wow Sull, that's really bad". With that I crawled into my bed, curled up into the fetal position and started to shake. As the morning wore on I realized that when I woke up I was still drunk and the hangover was just starting. It was a creeper. I didn't get out of bed until that evening, drawn out by the sounds of the men playing poker. I wasn't the same the rest of the week and I even had to go back to Western Massachusetts on Wednesday, three days early. I didn't feel right for weeks after the Cape. I finally went to the doctor. Diagnosis: Dehydration brought on from excessive liquid consumption with depletion of electrolytes, possible alcohol poisoning. I can say that I haven't had a worse hangover since and that this event was a wake up call. From this point in my life on I drank with a new found, relative, moderation. Relative is the key word.

October 17, 1992

I know the date because it was a week before my wedding, the night after my stag party. The details of how I got drunk are once again worthy of their own post, but here are some highlights (or low lights, six of one half dozen of the other). Two kegs, fifty guys, gambling, strippers, Sambuca, ten cases of beer, race riot, ambulance, cops...I got home at about 3 AM and my bride to be was still out with her cousins who took her out, what else, drinking. When she did stumble in we took turns puking for the next 12 hours. We stayed in bed all day, cancelling plans to have breakfast with her mother, alternating between sleeping and barfing. The only thing that gave me comfort was knowing that she was feeling worse than me. We were already like a married couple.

March 1997

I was on a golf trip in Orlando with me a seven other guys. The routine was this: Wake up early, drive for an hour, play 18 holes at a spectacular golf course, head to the clubhouse for drinks, go back to the hotel for more drinks poolside. Take a shower with drinks in hand. Go to dinner. Go out to a stripper bar or some other bar. Get drunk. Go to bed. One night late in the week we had a particularly wild night which included much of the above. When morning came we were due to play golf at Metro West Golf Course which was relatively close to the hotel, so we had a little extra time to lay in bed. This was a mistake because I fell back asleep. When the men realized that I wasn't at the car they sent someone up for me. When I got to the car the men gave me a standing "O". I gave them a wave and then disappeared behind a bush for some much needed dry heaving. When I appeared back at the car the laughter was deafening. I closed my eyes and lay back in my seat. Instantly we were getting our bags out at the course. The first hole was a slight uphill par four. I mustered up every bit of energy and concentration I had and smacked a ball 250 yards down the middle, one of my best drives of the week. My approach landed ten feet from the hole. I just scared the edge of the cup and tapped in for par. As reached down to pull my ball from the hole I started to dry heave. I thought for sure my head was going to pop off. I walked back to the golf cart and put my head in my hands. I didn't get another par the rest of the day, but recovered in time to have some "hair of the dog" poolside. I took it easy the rest of the week.

As you see I haven't had a memorable hangover in ten years. Relative moderation, age and kids have changed my drinking habits. (Being hungover with kids yelling, banging and shitting in their diapers is the worst; in the five years since my oldest has been born I've had about one hangover per year) My life is too busy these days to spend a day in bed "recovering". I still go out on occasion and tie one on, but instead of weekly its now just a few times a year at an occasion or event. I haven't gone out for New Years in fifteen years or St. Paddy's in 5. The appeal of drinking for drinkings sake is gone. I can still throw 'em back and love to get my drink on. I drink strickly for effect as I'd rather drink milk or soda with meals and water to quench my thirst. I will still get drunk on occasion but with trepidation and caution. This is one Top 5 list that I don't want to add to. I hope the rest of my hangovers are forgettable.

My wife sent this to me in an email. I used to love "Cheers" and this is one of my favorites.

The Buffalo Theory

In one episode of 'Cheers', Cliff is seated at
the bar describing the Buffalo Theory to his buddy, Norm. I don't think I've ever heard the concept explained any better than this.

'Well you see, Norm, it's like this . . . A herd
of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells.

Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol
kills brain cells.

But naturally, it attacks the slowest and
weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine.

And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.