Archive for September, 2023

Spider of My Dreams

For some reason, I used to take a great deal of delight in telling others my dreams. I guess this bad habit lasted until college, when I was informed that describing one’s dreams to another human adult had the same effect as slowly reading a phone book to them in a monotone voice while administering 400 ml of NyQuil. So it made people fall asleep with the added bonus that when they woke up, they absolutely despised you.

So I stopped. Having more than enough points against my personality, I chose to cut my losses on that one and just keep my dreams to myself. Until, of course, now. Now, I have a blog so if you are reading this just remember a. that you chose to, b. you can stop reading anytime you want, and c. you probably like me or are plotting against me. In any case, please don’t hate me.

Last week I dreamed about spiders. You’re going to want to notice that at the end of spider there’s an s. In English, this designates a plural. Not one spider, spiders. In my dream, they were literally flying through the air. Towards me. Big ones. But the kind with sharp legs. Oh it was awful. Then, I noticed another spider – this one that was sort of big and meaty, like a small dog, and was sitting in the middle of a web watching television. So, naturally, a bunch of former NFL players showed up and began poking him in one of his several eyes. I thought this was a bad idea and evidently I voiced that opinion because the big spider agreed with me (verbally) and then decided he should hang out with me. He did not leave my side for the rest of the dream. I think we went to the movies and he was charged the child rate.

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Setting Free the Crabs

Digital StillCamera

I bumped into my neighbor downstairs a little while ago. Literally bumped into him. He gave me a look that you give a guy who talks to his underpants in public. The scowl itself took minutes off my life. Had I had the lexicon at hand, I’d have explained that I was in a daze, had been for some days now. You see, a friend of mine has explained that YouTube is in financial trouble.

Now, a massive faceless organization’s money woes usually bring me a wee chuckle. That is, until I figure out how it might adversely affect me.

In this case, if YouTube dies off, all of my entertainment options will be shut off after drinking alcohol. For when I do put away a few and then wander home and then find that I have another two cold ones in the fridge, there’s nothing better than YouTube as a chaser.

Why? Because you can watch anything you want. Long gone are the days when you had a few drinks or just found yourself at a loose end and then had to be entertained based on the whims of a table full of TV executives. Could the youth of today even survive that world? When your late night choices are Major League and Congo? No. What about a world in which one’s only hope of seeing nudity on a screen was in late night movies where you had to watch a bad movie and were occasionally rewarded with a glimpse of breast or butt? No.

I didn’t explain this to my neighbor because he doesn’t seem to like me very much. Well, he doesn’t like me well enough to sit through my painfully low-level description of the above paragraph. So I let it go.

But the death of YouTube would remove so many little visual joys. Highlights from the 2008 World Series, any Phillies’ no-hitter, the Miracle at the Meadowlands (number 2). And then there are the movie clips: Hoosiers, The Natural, Saving Private Ryan, Annie.

And then there are the videos of people doing niceties for others. It used to be people doing nice things for other people, like giving them shoes or giving them a lot of money and then some shoes. Then people realized how much others suck and they moved onto animals. The most recent trend of self-videoed do-goodery is people removing animals from humanmade accidental entrapments. Men cutting loose a seal from a fishing net, a man freeing a goose from a plastic 6-pack container. A woman cutting loose her idiot husband from his Barcalounger. And I love it, because what goon doesn’t like to see an innocent animal immediately removed from a death trap? Not this one.

Well, usually.

I was down the shore a few weeks ago and noticed a group of young people standing above something on the beach. Everyone was terribly consternated about the proceedings and I wondered if I might be about to witness the shipment of a dolphin back to the ocean. Maybe a shark! Oh, the irony in our minds that we would do a good for this thing most of us fear. I approached the young people and looked into the sand at their feet. Standing beneath everyone, looking back up at them with what was clearly a look of alarm, was a crab. Surely this crab was wondering just what it was these people needed. Perhaps he was a do-good crab and was wondering if they needed some help with something.

He was no doubt alarmed when the young people began grabbing at him and trying to pick him up. The young people developed a pattern: reach down, grab, wince, retract hand in pain, try again, repeat. See, crabs are gifted by little sharp hand pincers and they probably don’t like it when people crowd them and then poke and prod at them. I was going to suggest that perhaps the crab understood how the ocean worked as it had been navigating it for about 500 million years. But I decided instead to stay out of internet videos.

In any event, that would just go on YouTube and, as we know, that might not exist in a while. This too I decided to keep away from my neighbor. A man who, it must be said, would probably help me into the ocean.

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No-No No…No!

It’s a too-warm summer night in Langhorne. Mid-August. Moments ago, my sister carried her shrieking child out of the living room and as her wails and shrieks dopplered away from us and became the problem of those upstairs, my mood enhanced as if someone had removed an iron rod from my colon. It’s time for beer and the Phillies.

The Phillies are a large part of my visit home. My dad and I watch the games pretty religiously and we hang out and chat and make lists (top five war movies not including WWII) or A to Z (on author’s second book titles) or we have in-depth discussions about our favorite sandwiches and why we hate specific people on the TV. Or, my dad’s favorite topic, how and when someone died. Bonus points if it was unexpected and violent.

My friend Collin is visiting. He’s from Wisconsin so we spend a great deal of time explaining things to him like non-dairy creamer and electricity. We have spent the day walking around the city and in between second hand bookstores and houses of founding fathers we found our way to more than one pub and lubricated our happy spots. After dozing on the train back we stopped at a pub placed about 100 feet from the train station and refilled. We are ready for baseball.

Michael Lorenzen is on the mound against the Nationals. It’s his second start. My father has stayed upstairs, as one trip downstairs is enough in a day for him. A second would be something like the hubris which makes rich people frozen twinkies on Everest. My mom sits with Collin and I. we all chat and watch the game.

Collin knows baseball, but football’s his game. He knows the inside out of everything when it comes to the sport. Baseball is his casual sport and he watches it with a passing fancy and it becomes secondary to his beer and our chat.

In the fourth inning, my mother and I make eye contact and actively don’t speak. We know what’s happening, but it is strictly against family rules – and against all of Philadelphia sporting rules – to say it aloud, to acknowledge it, or to call attention to it in any way.

Michael Lorenzen is pitching a no hitter. A no-no.

My mother and I shake it off and go back to the game. My mother asks Collin about his family and his family’s makeup and hand cream allegiances. There’s not a peep from upstairs.

Superstition is very important to any sports fans. Of course, there are those superiorly-posed fans out there who roll their eyes and with nonchalance claim that we mere observers have nothing to do with the outcome of a sporting event, but this is simply insane.

Evidence. August 15, 1991. Terry Mulholland is 6 innings into a perfect game against the Giants. My mother, brother, and I are watching in silence. Nobody has said a word. My mother brought crackers with jam and cream cheese. And then, suddenly, my best friend Eddie popped through the front door and announced:

“Hey! Did you guys know Terry Mulholland’s pitching a perfect game?”

The looks and admonishment from us to him took days off his life (a thing to be verified in 45 or so years). And then we all watched in horror as Charlie Hayes botched the throw on Rick Parker’s grounder. Eddie was ejected from the house and his father was called on the phone before he got home. His punishment was no doubt vicious and accepted by the gods of baseball because Mulholland later achieved the no-hitter via Charlie Hayes’ great play to end the game.   

Fast forward to May 1991. Tommy Greene is pitching a no-hitter against the Expos. Eddie and I had made plans to watch the game together, but he had been detained by a need for Tastycakes – a fully understandable excuse. However, Eddie never arrived and, when it became clear in the third inning that Tommy Greene was throwing a no-hitter, my family understood and silently nodded our assent. The man had learned his lesson and Greene’s no-hitter went on unhindered.   

So you see why nobody can say anything to Collin. He doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening and all I can do is say to him “Do you know what’s happening? Do you have any idea?”

Collin, thinking this is one of our fun drunken word puzzles, says “Sure I do, buddy. Sure I do.”

He gets up to get another beer. A few moments later, he hands me one with a wink and a nod.

When my sister arrives downstairs, we glare at her and the five-alarm fire waiting to happen that she has attached to her hip. If anyone in the family will ruin a sporting event, it’s my sister, a woman for whom sports rules are on her personal Totem of importance around the daily temperature of Mars or the habitat of the Eurasian otter.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

“Nothing. How are you?” I quickly ask, cutting off my mom. My mom will give away too much and this will lead to questioning. We don’t want questions. We want quiet.

My sister brings forth no requests from my dad, who has been in his room watching in absolute quiet. He has not engaged any of us, least of whom my mother, who would by this point in the evening often have received a text message for a bag of peanuts or a ginger ale or other things suggesting he’s mistaken her for a Lufthansa slight attendant.  

In the eighth inning, when Tom McCarthy says “Lorenzen has given up no hits here in the eighth” the quite in the booth is palpable. One imagines John Kruk staring in awe at McCarthy. Seconds later, Kruk says “Now, what did you just say right there?”

McCarthy: “What?”

My mother and I glance at each other. The gall.  

When Lorenzen pitches the final pitch and only after Johan Rojas catches the ball, celebrates, and then runs to the infield, do my mother and I celebrate. Collin jumps up and, no more prompting needed, jogs into the kitchen. He returns with celebratory beers. Amanda comes in, the celebration has upset her daughter and we need to keep it down. We don’t. Amanda heads for upstairs.

“Do you know what just happened?” I ask Collin.

He stares at the screen and realizes that the celebration is more than your normal mid-August slog celebration. “Did he pitch a no-hitter?” he asks.


“Why didn’t you tell me?”

My mother’s phone beeps the answer, though he doesn’t know it.

“Amanda, bring dad some peanuts and a ginger ale.”   

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Oh Not That Guy

Not that Guy, the Other Guy

During my recent visit to my family’s home, I was of course required to align some sort of succor to soothe my nerves at the end of the day. This, lest I would currently be sitting in a cell in an orange jumpsuit awaiting trial, my shoelaces and belt a jumbled mess in a deputy’s drawer some yards away.   

Succor was needed. But what?

Ten years ago that wasn’t even a question. The home away from home away from home was a place called The Langhorne Hotel, a bar that sat as a merciful oasis about 50 yards from my parents’ porch. When they began dangling on my nerves like chunky Tarzans, I’d plod across the street with a book and come back when I was rereading the same paragraph.

But as I get older, drinking isn’t as much an enjoyable escape from reality as much as an escape into a skull throbbing four-day hangover. Thus, I’d need something a little milder. There’s medication for that, you say? True. But in general I have found that pooping every day is a good way to go through life and pills such as those have a way of, oh, collecting the troops and keeping them pinned inside in a vat of concrete. Mix that tendency with the pasta, pizza, sandwich diet I take on during each August visit, and you have a bout of constipation that could last through November. Just in time for the Christmas rush. Or, as it were, not rush.

I elected for TV. Specifically British TV. More specifically British crime TV. Really specifically Endeavor.   

Endeavor is the prequel to Morse. Morse was my first British detective love. He is a cranky old sod who loves his crosswords and who calls beer “brain food.” I watched all of Morse back in the early 2000s. Lewis was Morse’s sergeant and after Morse died, Lewis had his own show (that’s how it is with these British detectives). I watched Lewis with glee and then when they ran out of people to kill for Lewis to investigate, they decided to go back to the source.

Endeavor is a series about the grumpy Morse as a young man in Oxford in the 60s and 70s. It details his climb up the rungs as a misanthrope and a drinker and as one who has the ability to put off even British people. It’s impressive.

And so each night, after a day of family fun at top volumes and after wiping away my tears of rage and unchoking my throat of contempt, I would settle into my air mattress, shut off the lights, and put on the show. Soon, I’d be in Oxford, family far away, and nothing but a series of grisly murders to contend with.

While relaxing to a crime show, I like to choose a character to be. Because I am a nonconfrontational wimp I always choose to be a character that doesn’t have anything to do with the crime. They answer the questions then go off on their day. I choose one of those. Usually, however, the murderer in Endeavor turns out to be one of those very people. The cab driver who found a shirt, the schoolteacher who was roommates with the beslaughtered, the manager of the chocolate store who sold a girl her last lollipop. And if one of those guys aren’t the murderer, then they have so many skeletons in their closet that it’s like a pool in a pool in a Spielberg film.

Once I chose a sideline character, I’d sit back, relax, and bombard my throat with carbohydrates. Then I’d watch in horror as my sideline character, my cabbie, doctor, tax collector, ice cream man, turned out to be psychopathic murderer the whole time. In week two I began dreaming of being grilled by Morse and Fred Thursday, and not in the fun it-wasn’t-me-so-ask-away way that I’d always fantasized about. It was scary. Well, I guess it’s better than drinking.  

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