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Wednesday, May 11, 2011


My "little brother", Brian, is in Pittsburgh this week.  He's in quotes because he was my fraternity little brother as opposed to my flesh and blood little brother.  He's consulting for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I didn't really know what that meant, except that he'd be here all week.

I met him at his hotel.  It's across the street from PNC Park.  Part of our evening was a Pirate game.  He got the hotel parking pass so I was able to park right there.  It had been at least 16 years since I'd seen him.  He still looked more or less the same.  I was surprised.  Some of my friends have let themselves go a little since our college years.  He had less hair, I suppose, but he'd always cut it short.  Shaved bald seemed almost natural, like it had always been that way, or like he'd just decided to try a new look.  He'd always had a bit of a baby face.  I still didn't recognize him right away when I pulled up to the hotel (he was standing outside waiting to give me the parking pass).  I guess I just wasn't expecting HIM to be there yet, though i knew we were going to the game.  I hadn't reconciled the reality in my mind.

I said, "you look pretty much the same as you did the last time I saw you!" and shook his hand.  He. . . thanked me. 

"You fucker," I thought, "This is where you say I look pretty much the same as I did too!  You think i'm old!"  And i wept.  At least in my head.  Actually I was amused by his failure to respond reciprocally.  I'm sure I've aged in 16 years.  There's a picture of 30 year old Jim floating around somewhere, and the difference isn't huge, but i've gained some weight. . . which is actually a good thing.  I was 6' tall and weighed 150 - 160 pounds for a lot of my college years.  185 fills me out a little; takes the edge off.
We met another guy he was working on the marathon with.  He introduced himself as Mike Johnson and I forgot it a minute later.  He was from Boston and worked on the Boston Marathon and was helping Brian with the event.  I told Brian in an aside my short term memory was shot, and after we finished a beer I asked him to remind me his coworker's name.  He did.

We finished our beers, paid the tab, and crossed the street to the Park.  It's a really nice ballpark.  It's tragic that nobody's ever there, because nobody gives a shit about the Pirates in Pittsburgh.    Mike was amazed because he goes to Red Sox games and they're always packed.  He kept repeating how unbelievable he found it that nobody was in the Park, but I think in a way it makes the experience for the couple thousand actually there in attendance better.  No crowds, no lines. . . very relaxed.  A day at the park. 

Unfortunately I was shoe-horned into my seat, sharing an arm rest with a 300-pound Dodger fan who would bend my ear with tales of softball glory past for at least the next two hours.  He was from Pittsburgh, but was a Dodger fan anyway, and i think he was trying to recruit me into his rec softball league between annecdotes about his bad knee and lamentations about how a black woman won't let you play softball and how he wished his christian league was more than just black guys (he was lobbying for more inclusion).  He was black himself.  The man he was 'with' was sitting behind him, presumably because his experience had taught him that two 300-pound men cannot sit comfortably side by side in stadium seats.   He was wall-eyed, and when he participated in the discussion I had to crane my neck to look behind me and then was uncomfortably aware of not knowing which eye I should be looking at.

The game turned painful but the company was nice.  In about the 6th inning I went to the bathroom and then stopped by the proshop and bought a Pirates sweatshirt.  I usually buy myself all of my logo stuff at the games.  Otherwise I don't think of it.  I put the sweatshirt on, though it probably wasn't chilly enough yet to justify it.  I bought three beers and brought them back to the seats with me, handing them down, as I sat.

We were supposed to meet my ex-brother-in-law (who also went to college with Brian and was in the same fraternity) at a bar across the street after the game.  He texted me at the top of the 8th. 

"I'm at Finnegan's"

"We're still at the game"

"Are you kidding?  It's 7-2"

The Dodgers were still batting; pummelling the Pirate's bullpen pitchers.  It was now 8 - 2.  We agreed to pack it in and save Sam from his lonely seat at the bar.  I texted him again.

"Fine, we're leaving now.  Fucker."

"Great.  Jackass."

We got to the bar and talked and had a couple more beers.  The TV was showing the game, now in the 9th inning.  It was 10 - 2.  While we were there two girls with huge boobs in stretchy low-cut tops too tight for the rest of their physiques parked themselves across the bar from us.  A couple guys were talking to them and started aggressively fondling the one.  She was laughing.  The curious/alarmed looks coming from the rest of the bar made her laugh harder.  He was actively jiggling her breasts.  His buddy began motorboating her friend.  She looked up to the bar at large and announced, "it's okay, they're gay."  Gays love boobs.  Or so I've heard.

There ensued some debate about whether or not just SAYING you were gay was enough to allow motorboating priviledges and I opined that you probably had to at least KNOW the girls too.  They're not just boobs for hire, after all. 

We finished our beers.  Sam left and I walked back to the hotel with Brian and Mike.  If I was worried that Mike (he was in his early 60's) wouldn't fit into the discussion or felt uncomfortable being around three guys who went to college together, I needn't have. 

After we left the bar he said to me, "I think you probably could have motorboated that girl."

"Oh yeah?  Why is that?" I asked him as we walked.

"Cause you look gay in that sweatshirt."

I laughed.

Fuckin' Red Sox fans.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Midvale, School for the Gifted

It was quitting time.  My watch read five after five when I closed my laptop and stuffed it into my messenger bag.  I slung it over my shoulder and headed downstairs.  Across the lobby, a man I'd never met with short -cropped hair (nearly buzz cut) and a sun-crimsoned neck wearing a navy blue company-logo polo shirt and khaki pants was striding purposefully for the lobby exit, preceeding me at a brisk pace that suggested hurried departure, or at minimim very clear objectives that opening the door would satisfy. 

That I didn't recognize him didn't come as much of a surprise.  The salesmen are almost never at the corporate office, and this man was clad in standard issue salesman-at-training attire.

At the door now, he strode forward, pushing the bar of the door to open it.  There was an echoing metallic crash as he pushed the bar, then his momentum carried him into the door, which remained stubbornly closed.  He stopped short, not quite bouncing his head off the glass of the door, but clearly not expecting it to remain closed.

I continued to walk forward, closing the gap as he struggled internally.  He pushed again.  The door bar clashed but the door itself remained closed.  My mind summoned up the image of an old Gary Larson "Farside" cartoon.  There is a brick building with a large door in the center.  To the right is a sign that reads "Midvale, School for the Gifted".  A boy with short red hair is pushing hard against the door with his right hand, holding a school book in his left.  He is leaning against the door.  In the center of the door is a sign that says "Pull".  I stifled a grin.

I glanced to the right of the door as I neared him in his exertions.  A small bulb on a security pad linked to the door lit red, signifying the door was still locked.  I knew that when i came abreast of it, it would twinkle green and red, accompanied by a barely audible click, signifying the door was unlocked .  It would remain so for about 15 seconds before timing out and relocking, the light returning to steady red. 

Before I could reach the door, the man turned and, looking up, registered there was a witness to his impotent attempts at egress.  I opened my mouth to tell him I'd let him out, but before I could do so, he finished his turn, striding back the way he'd come, and quickly sputtered, "I gotta go find Rohan," as if in answer to my unspoken question regarding his about-face.

I wanted to answer, "Were you looking for him outside?  Cause what it LOOKED like you were doing. . . is trying to leave the building."  But i didn't.  I didn't really acknowledge his comment one way or the other.  I didn't know the guy.  Why did he feel it was necessary to cover his thwarted door attempts by making an excuse about having to go see someone (or he'd TOTALLY have kicked that door's ass) to me?  I didn't know, but it made me want to laugh anyway.

The red light twinkled green and red and I pushed the door bar.  It crashed internally, again echoing hollowly in the lobby before the door smoothly opened and I was outside in the sunshine.  The door clicked shut behind me and I chuckled aloud.

The man was too ashamed of his own failure to use the open door I offered to effect his own escape.  Perhaps if he hadn't dropped the Rohan-alibi he could still have walked out the door behind me without losing face.  But he had.  Leaving the building right behind me would no doubt have required ANOTHER lie like. . . "They said he's outside by my car," or worse.  He may have spent the night in the building.  I'm not sure.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Three Little Bloglets

Growing up, my mom called sneakers tennis shoes. I always thought the word sneakers was a dumb word, an East Coast word, like their sodapop that we just called pop. And I guess it's because mom (ironically born on the East Coast) always called them tennis shoes. Anything else sounded like a mistake. To me even my basketball shoes were tennis shoes; running shoes. . . tennis shoes; etc. In fact the only shoes that were not tennis shoes were boots, or dress shoes. Anything you played around in though, tennis shoes.

And i didn't call them "tennis shoes" like two distinct words that invoked pictures of clean-cut men clad in matching white shorts and collared polo shirts, but one word, "tennashoes". The accent was on the first syllable. TEN-nuh-shoes.

It was only when I got older that I even put it together there were actual shoes specifically made for playing tennis and that those shoes were aptly named tennis shoes, and the shoes I was wearing (and referring to as tennashoes) were not necessary the same thing. But i still call them tennashoes to this day, or tennies, if I'm pressed for time.


I was making lunches for the kids, packing salami sandwiches into plastic sandwich bags labelled in marker with their names markered onto them. Emma began to laugh. A rerun of an old "America's Funniest Home Videos" was on the TV. The videos are always pretty funny. But the schtick BETWEEN videos by the host (now on to greener and schtickier "Dancing With The Stars" pastures) always made the show more or less unwatchable for me. Still, Emma likes it, and who doesn't laugh when some nimrod hits himself in the nuts trying to show off his trampoline prowess, or a kitten launches itself comically at a video camera, or somesuch?

"What happened?" I asked her, zipping her lunchbag and looking up.

She described how one child was pushing another child on a swing. The child pushing got distracted and when the swinging child returned, the pushing child was knocked ass over tea kettle on the ground.

"Kids are dumb," I told her, wondering if she'd take offense to this, or think it was funny.

She laughed harder. "Kids ARE dumb," she replied, and chuckled to herself wryly, apparently excluding herself from the demographic.


I forgot the third thing I was going to blog about