Friday, April 14, 2017

Holy Hell on Holy Saturday

Holy Hell on Holy Saturday He adjusted his knee pads, shin guards and shoulder pads. He donned his helmet and strapped it in place. He slipped on his padded gloves and clutched the small iron bar hidden inside that his dad had given him to deliver crushing backhand facial checks to onrushing players. He watched the others as they warmed up. He had no fear of any of them. He wasn't the fastest competitor, but he was the biggest, strongest and toughest. He took pride in the fact that he had never cried during a competition, no matter how devastating the blow he absorbed. Tony Ames, his best friend and fifth grade classmate, was doing his stretches. He really liked Tony, but today he was the enemy. He knew that the strength of Tony's game was speed, and deft footwork including skillful tripping and kicking, usually away from the eyes of the referees. He looked at the crowd sitting in the bleachers and standing around the field in the warm Spring sunshine. They were already in high spirits and full-throated excitement. Hell, they were screaming for blood even before the game began. Until ten years ago, this was an activity that existed only in the parks and playgrounds of America when ESPN, in an effort to fill the air time between the end of the NCAA basketball tournament and the start of Major League Baseball, codified the rules and promoted it aggressively. Soon big time sponsors jumped in starting local and regional competitions and offering scholarships. It became a national sensation and fan favorite, because it combined the worst of hockey, football, roller derby, and professional wrestling. Checking, kicking, tripping, hitting with the open hand, hair pulling, and eye gouging were all allowed. Biting and scratching, however, were violations. As he lined up with the others, he looked toward the first goal some fifty yards away. He would break free from the bashing, smashing scrum that was the Pack, make a dead sprint for it, and try to gain his first point as quickly as possible. When the referee dropped the starting flag, he held the shirt of the player on his right and tripped the player on his left just enough to give himself a clean break. As he was distancing himself from the Pack, he felt another faster player approaching at an intercepting angle from the left. As the player dropped into his slide to deliver a hook trip, he whirled and struck with a solid knee check to his sternum. The player lay choking and gasping for air. He stood over him and sneered: "What's a matter, Tony, you little baby? Forget your inhaler?" The crowd of parents and fans was booing, cat-calling and giving him the finger. He started to do his muscle-man flex and Indian war dance over the fallen foe, but caught a flash of pink shooting by and streaking for the goal. God damn, Mary Margaret! His dad said she was the competitor he should fear the most. "Don't let the pink tutu and Minnie Mouse tee shirt fool you, she's as fast as lightening, and as cold as a snake," he said. He took off in pursuit. Just as he drew near, she came to a full stop, threw her left hand straight back and delivered a bone crushing backhand blow with her loaded glove to his oncoming face. Serenaded by the gleeful roar of the crowd, he landed flat on his back and felt with his tongue the gap where his front teeth had been. "Don't blame me! Mommy told you to wear your mouth-piece, you stupid jerk!", she taunted. His own little sister had knocked out his front teeth! He would never live this down. His head was spinning and he just wanted to lay there and cry, but he bounded up and took off after her. He decided he couldn't prevent her from scoring, but would go for the defensive take-away instead. She dove across the goal line and reached into the box on the other side. As she stood up to place her trophy in her pouch, he delivered a body check that slammed her tiny frame into the goal post sending the ovoid object into the air and into his waiting pouch. "Guess that sucks for you, Sis," he hissed as he stomped on her supine carcass and ran in pursuit of the other players. Two old men sat on a park bench watching the proceedings. One turned to the other, scratched his head, and said: "Jeeze Louise, Floyd, this sure don't look like the Easter egg hunts I remember."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Of Animal Carcasses and Geniuses

“I can’t download the new photos from my ITouch to the computer,” I whined to Kathie. “I used to be able to, but now I can’t.”

This seems to be happening with increasing frequency: you turn on the computer and things look different in subtle ways, or aren’t quite where they were before. Kathie usually blames me, saying that I hit something or moved something and set off a chain of unfortunate consequences. I will admit that my life history would seem to confirm this.

“Did you hit something or move something,” she predictably asks.

" Well, I signed us up for the Cloud."

“What does that do?”

“I have no idea but a pop-up popped-up and said I should sign-up. It’s like a big computer in the sky, I think.”

The pop-up said that with the Cloud everything now goes everywhere all the time and that things from my devices go straight to the computer and vice versa. It seemed like a good idea, though I only have one device. I have also learned that if you don’t keep up with these things, pretty soon you are behind the eight ball and can’t even get your Groupon fliers.

“ I think it is time for us to schedule another session with the geniuses,” Kathie says.

This is what they call the employees at the Apple Store, all of whom have unwashed hair, dirty finger nails and are 16 years old. When we purchased our Mac, we signed up for one year of free counseling. So far we have had three sessions and are as confused as ever, but we take notes that we lose and always go to California Pizza right after.

We show up at the appointed time and the genius introduces herself. She is older and better groomed than the standard model. She goes into an explanation of the Cloud, that I would summarize here if I understood it.

She explains that the reason I can’t download my pictures from the ITouch is that, although I have signed up for the Cloud, I have not turned it on. She fixes this and says the pictures will now go automatically to all of my devices and the Cloud, but I will have to move them from the Cloud to the computer. She has me take a picture, which not only goes directly to my ITouch and the Cloud, but shows up on our computer as well.

“It’s not supposed to do that,” she says in stunned disbelief. “I will have to consult with my manager.”

With that she disappears, but soon returns.

“Okay, the pics now go to your computer too. This is a change that took place this morning. It’s strange we didn’t get a memo on it,” she says.

It is obvious to me that the Big Computer in the Sky made this change by itself without informing any mortals, and we are one step closer to Terminator world.

“Let’s see these pictures you want to move,” she says.

I highlight them on my device and up they pop.

A stifled gasp escapes the genius.

“These are the pictures you want to upload? What in God’s name for?”, Kathie shouts.

You would think they had never seen pictures of scavenged animal carcasses before.

Here’s the back-story on the dead beasts:

On one of my walks, I cut across a rarely used farm field. Several hundred feet off the little used rural road, I noticed a small clearing among some trees that contained what looked like a deer carcass. Walking over for a closer look, I noticed, judging by the number of rib cages, that there were the remains of at least five deer.

There were also the carcasses of several large, dead birds, perhaps pheasant or grouse. All the animals had been heavily scavenged.

Coming across a dead animal in the woods is not unusual, but this many is really odd.

It struck me that there was something almost feline about it. Our cat was an inveterate and highly efficient hunter. She would stockpile the remains of her kills in one spot in the backyard. I called this the dead pile: a chip of chipmunk here, a bit of bunny there.

Tigers do this as well. I am told if you stumbled across something like this in India, it would probably already be too late, as a big striped kitty would soon add you to its collection.

I also thought it could be the work of poachers or some bizarre cult.

Tigers, cultists, poachers? By now I had completely spooked myself and could feel unseen eyes watching from the darkened woods.

I had my ITouch and bravely decided to record the scene, perhaps to post on Facebook to see if my friends might have some thoughts on what I was observing, or to forward to the fish and game authorities.

After I explained the photos, the genius remained silent but not my wife.

“Facebook??? You were going to put these on Facebook? What is the matter with you?”

She had a point. My friends who might know what was going on here, never go on Facebook. Those that do, might be put off by graphic color photos depicting piles of bleached bones, rotting skin, and feathered bird limbs.

“Well, there they are on your computer,” the genius observed. “Are we done now?” she asked clearly anxious to move on.

I can picture the conversation around her dinner table later that night:

Parent: “Did anything interesting happen at the store today?”

Genius: “Some guy wanted to load a bunch of creepy pictures of dead animals on his computer and was having trouble.”

Parent: “Why in God’s name did he want to do that?”

Genius “What am I, a genius?”

As we drove home in silence digesting our thoughts and our pizza, Kathie suddenly asked : “Why did you have to bring those pictures?”

Desperate to change the subject, I replied: “Hey, maybe they digitized Steve Jobs spirit and he is up in the Cloud? It would be just like him to start changing things without consulting his staff.”

“Yeah,” she said, “and maybe there’s tigers in New Jersey”

Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Irritable Old Man Gets A Christmas Card

The irritable old man is an alter ego who takes the helm once in awhile after I have had a few too many glasses of wine the night before or attended a funeral. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my, er, regular ego.

Who are these people, anyway?

The Christmas card from the Rourkes is addressed to us and appeared in our mailbox last week. The photo shows four human males and one female all smiling. At the center of the composition is a table bearing two dogs. Since their genitals are prominently displayed, it is apparent they are both males.

One dog ding-dong on a Christmas card is probably okay, but two is over doing it.

With the exception of the dogs, they are all wearing black polo shirts and tan trousers. They look more like the police academy graduating class than a festive family.

Unknown guy senior looks like he could be a cop. Maybe he is the Gestapo bastard who ticketed in me in High Bridge rubbing it in. Or maybe it is his idea of “community policing” to send a Christmas card to some poor slob he just nailed.

Surely they are Republicans and mistake us for their cronies because they wished us “prosperity” in the coming year clearly a reference to their plan to plunder our Social Security and Medicare.

Despite their smiles, the three teenage males look like bullies. I’ll bet they put their black shirts on and go to New York to hobnail stomp some poor Occupy Wall Street dude.

The one dog definitely is part pit bull and probably bitch humps on the other one who is one of those repulsive Pug things.

Almost invisible in the left hand corner sits a mousey female with a cheesy grin. Although judging from her demeanor she might be an abused servant, she is probably the mother of the thugs and wife of the sadistic policeman.

Kathie does not recognize these people and no one we know knows who they are.

“I wonder where they think they know us from?, Kathie asks.

“Either gun club or prayer group, I would guess,” I respond.

I have to admit, I am somewhat put off by the fact that this card came in well after Christmas.

“Should we send them a New Year’s card?,” she asks. This is her fix for dealing with people we have dropped from our Christmas card list because we didn’t get one from them last year only to receive one from them this year. Of course, they will drop us next year while we will re-instate them….and so it goes.

“Although they think they know us,” I reply, “They don’t think enough of us to get our card to us in a timely manner, so the hell with them.”

Who do these people think they are anyway?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Things We Did Last Summer

In case you hadn’t noticed, no new posting has appeared on these pages since last July. Of course you hadn’t noticed, but I will explain my absence anyway.

By the way, thanks to my good friend Googlebot who faithfully visited three times a day and accounted for thirty per cent of my readership during the Absence.

Also, a check of my site meter reveals that many of you continued to come here looking for information on how to get a haircut like George Clooney. Get over it: I posted “George Clooney Stole My Haircut” three years ago and I am sure he has changed his hairstyle sixteen times since then. I, of course, have not changed mine.

The long and short of it is I decided to take the summer off. Okay, it is almost November, but I am retired and lose track of time.

Here is what I did on my summer vacation:

. Played “Angry Birds.” I found this a productive way to fill the empty, wasted hours I used to spend senselessly blogging. After thirty-three days, I got to the end of the free version and opted not to spring for the 99 cents to upgrade to the full edition.

. Spent a week in my daughter’s bathroom. Elisabeth and her husband, Alex, are renovating their house in Boston. I was called in to install moldings and baseboards in the upstairs. I was supposed to finish the whole project in a week, but didn’t manage to get out of the bathroom. Each evening she would examine my progress and comment: “Is this all you managed to get done.” In my defense, I would state that I spent most of the time in a semi-conscious state due to constantly banging my head on the ceiling that slopes off precipitously on one side of the room.

. Tried to stay dry. We have had a lot of rain in this part of the country and two major floods in town. My house has stayed dry but I had two pair of Wal-Mart sneakers rot right off my feet. I replaced these with a pair of Crocs. These are the same rubber clogs that Mario Batalli wears and are sometimes called bistro shoes, although I think, as Mario probably does as well, this sounds a little girlie. I call them my puddle jumpers because they are perfect for that enjoyable recreational activity that swept the northeast this summer.

. Played “Zombie Highway.” This is what I took up after besting the Angry Birds. This involves running over and shooting lesser sorts while hurdling along the highway in your black SUV. While this may sound like it would only appeal to Dick Cheney, it filled in the time I used to spend thinking about writing a novel or going back to work.

. Got an IPod Touch. I must admit I got somewhat addicted to this amazing little gadget (see Played “Angry Birds” and Played “Zombie Highway.”) Don’t even get me started on the ApStore. You can have just about every piece of information ever assembled instantly at the touch of this magical device. This includes every sexual position in the Kama Sutra. No kidding! When your new girlfriend suggests that you and she make the Monk With Two Backs, you will know she is not recommending you team up on a Halloween costume.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A New Outlook

Looking at the deep tooth marks on the temple ends of my eyeglasses, Kathie said: “Well, you’ve chewed through these, maybe it’s time to start on another pair.”

This was her way of saying she thinks I need a new pair of glasses.

I agreed because, frankly, I was fed up with the half-eaten ones.

“I really don’t like these progressive lenses,” I said. “If not being able to see in any scenario is progress, I’ll be getting around with a red tipped cane and a dog before long.”

“Just get your regular distance glasses and take them off when you read,” she suggested, “but don’t lay them down in the grass and run them over with the mower like you did with your last pair.”

Elisabeth was home for a visit and was delegated to accompany me and prevent any fashion miscues from occurring.

Upon arriving at the eye glass store, our different approaches to shopping became apparent: she headed straight for the European and Designer collection while I perused the $69.95 and under collection. Everything she chose made me look like either Dame Edith or Buddy Holly; everything I selected made me look like a Wal-Mart employee or a really cheap retired guy. “Those will really go well with Velcro sneakers,” she snottily opined about one pair I tried on.

Finally, we settled on a nice tortoise shell pair that I thought gave me a certain scholarly air and that she agreed to because she thought it would get her out of the store before Starbuck’s closed.

Now, you may well ask: Why is someone still wearing glasses when everyone else is wearing contacts? Well, why does someone still have a flip cell phone with a screen photo of a dog that died six years ago when everyone else is simultaneously watching American Idol, posting naked pictures of themselves, and filing their income taxes on theirs? I am slow to change.

Also, glasses hide the tote bag size sacks that hang beneath my eyes. These bags are so large that it has been suggested that I get them monogrammed.

It is also part of my image. How will all of my senior friends who have forgotten my name identify me if they cannot refer to “You know, that guy with the glasses”?

I did spring for one option: I got the non-glare lenses. When I put the new glasses on my world went from a "Foggy Day in London Town" to "It’s a Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day."

Shit, I guess I wasn’t clinically depressed after all.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Test Drive

I knew the test drive of the speedy, stylish Hyundai Sonata wasn’t going well when I saw my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, pounding her fists on her headrest and making noises like she was being throttled from the back seat like Luca Brasi.

“What’s the matter?,” I asked as I brought the car to a stop.

“This damn headrest is pushing my head forward and giving me a headache,” she complained. “I can’t ride around for the next ten years with a crooked neck and a headache.”

We keep our cars for a long time. “But we’ve only gone around the block,” I whined.

Kathie is usually a gamer, but this seemed to be really giving her a problem.

I was crushed. I REALLY liked this car and I sensed that this was a game changer.

As we rolled into the dealership, Frank, the affable, overweight salesman, was waiting in the driveway. “Whatya think?,” he asked clearly expecting good news.

“The passenger side headrest gives her a headache,” I responded. “I think it’s a deal breaker.”

“Huh?,” he asked, his rubbery face contorting in stunned confusion. “But they are all like that,” he explained. “It’s a new Federal safety regulation.”

I can occasionally understand why conservatives get fed-up with government over-regulation, and I for one can’t understand why Obama wants us all driving around with our heads between our legs.

Frank, however, was not about to let this sale go quietly into the afternoon. “Let’s try adjusting the seat back,” he suggested.

With Kathie on board he gradually lowered the back of the seat until she pronounced that her head was comfortable. Unfortunately, by the time this was accomplished, she was in a three-quarter supine position.

“There!,” Frank shouted, sure the problem was solved and now the haggling could begin.

“I can’t ride around on my back. I’ll get car sick and I can’t knit,” my wife complained.

“Try rolling on your side,” he suggested.

Turning to me, the creative salesman asked: “Do you have a vise.”

“I drink too much and smoke cigars. What of it?,” I replied.

“No a VISE. You can put the prongs of the headrest in the vise and gradually bend them back; or you can rest the prongs on the pavement and hit them with a hammer.”

I had to admire his persistence, but a withering glance was my only response.

“Do YOU have this problem in the passenger seat?,” he asked me.

I said that, since I am a shrunken old man whose head slumps forward naturally, it was not an issue for me.

“Great! Then let her drive!,” Frank shot back, convinced this was a Eureka moment.

Still, our expressions told him that there was no way around the forward-thrusting headrest and he quietly slumped back into the showroom.

We continued on to the Subaru dealer. The salesman seemed surprised that the first question we asked pertained to the orientation of his product’s headrests. He confirmed that those on the Subaru also slant forward.

“I have only seen this as a problem for people with pony-tails,” he said.

While it was obvious that Kathie does not have a pony-tail, he seemed to be examining the back of her head to see if there was some sort of bony projection that might be contributing to her discomfort.

We had now both lost our enthusiasm for car shopping and returned home.

Later that evening, our son called to ask how we liked the Sonata. “We loved it, but the headrest gave your mother a headache,” I gloomily responded.

“I’m not surprised,” he said.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For Sale: My Stink Bug Civil War Diorama

Kathie and I are not hoarders, but we are very much both I’ll-deal-with-that-laterers. This explains the unconscionable amount of stuff that has accumulated in our basement in the 35 years we have lived here.

With a move looming in the foreseeable future, I have been assigned the task of cleaning the basement and finding any treasures we might sell on eBay. I don’t have high hopes for this project because typically we throw out anything of value and retain the worthless leftovers of our lives.

Still I did find a few things that I think might go over big at the web auction site:

. A large quantity of Asian Stink Bug carcasses. How these poor creatures died I am sure would be the makings of a fine nature special, but dead they are and I wracked my brain for a way to turn dead bugs into bucks. Of course, they would have value to the entomologically inclined, but I decided to cash in on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, by creating a diorama of a battle between the blue and gray painted insects. I only have enough for a skirmish now, but by the way they are reproducing in our house, I will soon have enough for the whole three days of Gettysburg. I was discouraged to find, however, that there are a dozen Stink Bug Civil War Dioramas already on EBay, plus the work of one poor soul who was infested enough to stage the Normandy Invasion.

. My son’s sixth grade science project which is a realistic plaster-of-Paris rendition of Mount Vesuvius, complete with puffing smoke. Strangely, it is also a realistic rendition of the left cup of a brassiere worn by Madonna during her “Material Girl” tour, complete with puffing smoke. I have always thought my son spent an inordinate amount of time stroking the smooth, wet plaster into just the shape he desired. This should be big with eruption fans of all stripes.

. A rare CD of a lecture given by then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin explaining T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock” to the juniors at Fairbanks High School: “He’s the one who was a-coming, he was a-going, he was a-Michelangelo-ing.” This will be of interest to illiteracy collectors everywhere.

. A nearly complete gallon of Martha Stewart’s “Heat Rash Rose.” According to “Rare Paints Digest”, only one gallon of this color was ever sold. Hey, we only used it as an accent color in our bathroom and it went perfectly with her “Deathly Pallor Gray.”

. Two dozen two piece plastic martini glasses. For some reason known only to the Chinese, these had detachable stems which detached when you raised your glass to your lips depositing four bucks worth of gin on your tie. Understandably, these are a highly sought after gift items by dry cleaners and liquor distributors.

Still, it seems a shame to sell off these things when the market for collectibles is at a low…..maybe we should hang onto them for awhile.