Mr. Bones

About 6 years ago this past August, Wonder Woman was at the local Christmas Tree Shop and saw a palette of boxes, each of which contained one of these handsome fellers. They were about $20 each. Best 20 bucks we ever spent.

Mr. Bones here comes equipped with a corded microphone that, when spoken into, causes his jaw to move and eyes to light up, as well as the voice of the person who is actually talking to come out of a speaker in Mr. Bones’ chest, which is hidden beneath his cloak.

In other words, he is the ultimate tool for freaking people out. I shall expound in a related post shortly.

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Jack

With life having become such an unbelievably fast-moving blur in recent years, I’ve realized I don’t have any time to get properly excited in advance about specific holidays—and Halloween is right after Christmas on my list of favorites.

Yes, I am a Halloween freak … and you will learn just how much so when I write something later this week about the lengths I go to in order to amuse myself on Halloween night. (Fortunately, the police have never found the bodies. No, I’m just kidding; they found a few, but haven’t been able to pin any on me.)

This lovely Jack O’ Lantern is one of several on a string of Halloween lights that Wonder Woman hangs in the kitchen each year. Making one of them the focus of today’s photo seemed like a good way to start getting in the mood for the coming shenanigans.

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! [Insert scary organ music here.]

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Alternate ending

CUT!

CUT CUT CUUUUUT!

OK, c’mere. Do you see this script? Do you? Look right here, genius:

“The Boston Red Sox, who were down three games to one and came within seven outs of being eliminated, complete yet another stunning and historic comeback to claim the 2008 American League pennant; World Series starts at Fenway Wednesday night. ROLL CREDITS.”

Now, listen, jackass—who are you again? Tampa who? Tampa Bay? And you think you can just waltz in here and start ad-libbing? I don’t think so!

Why not? Well, not that I owe you an explanation, Mr. Johnny Come Lately Tampa Bay Rays, but we’re the fucking Red Sox! That’s why not! This is what we do! We snatched a World Series berth out of your smirking, toothless, manta-ray mouths the other night in one of the most historic comebacks of all time! Now, riddle me this, smart-ass: why the hell would we do that if we weren’t predestined to advance to the World Series?

Not only that, but Zan and I? We remembered to do the cheer! And—OK, OK, aaaaand I wore my magical Red Sox apparel. What exactly makes you think you can flout the power of my superstitious, OCD-induced rituals?

I mean, I was pumped—PUMPED!—for a Red Sox vs. Phillies World Series … and I guaranfuckingtee you that so was just about everyone else who follows baseball and doesn’t live in Tampa fucking Bay!

Tampa Bay! I mean, the nerve of you people!

Now I have to wait for this feeling to pass … this sick lump of defeat, disappointment and sorrow that’s been knocking around in my stomach for the past 11 hours. Granted, it’s nothing like the state of shock I was in after Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS … but, in the wake of our championship wins in ’04 and last year … well, frankly, I’m no longer equipped to deal with failure.

To be fair, I will readily admit that I am extremely spoiled and fortunate; this was only my seventh full season as a diehard fan … and the Sox have gone to the postseason for five of those, and won the World Series twice. I saved myself 32 years of pain and disappointment by not giving a rat’s ass about sports until 2002.

Of course, that realization makes me think that I may be setting Zan up for more than he bargained for. The kid’s five years old and he’s already been around for two World Series victories. His frame of reference is completely skewed. What if they don’t win another one for 86 years?

And it’s not like following this team is a casual undertaking. Seven months and 173 games, this season encompassed. More than half of the year here at Casa de Scratches includes a daily undercurrent of Red Sox fandom … which is fine when your team is a juggernaut, but what happens if we slip into a decades-long postseason drought? I’m almost 40, and I feel like my puppy just died; how can I subject a little kid to this kind of (potentially long-term) disappointment?

Fortunately, he’s still too young to be truly broken up about this year’s demise … and half our family lives in Philly, so we still have a horse in this race.

But, still … Tampa Bay wins Game 7? Stop it. Just stop it.

Next year.

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The Tenth Man

Second greatest comeback in postseason history … and you all have me to thank for it.

It was the fifth inning and the Sox were getting blanked, 5-0. It was a funeral. Sox hitters looked like zombies, and Sox pitchers were helping the Rays hold an impromptu home-run derby. The TBS announcers had shovels in hand and were tossing dirt on top of the almost-closed coffin.

Wonder Woman had seen enough.

“I’m going to bed,” she said. “I’m sorry honey,” she added, trying to comfort me as my team rolled over and played dead.

And then I had an epiphany: the pre-game cheer! Zan and I forgot—again—to do our planned pre-game cheer!

Before Game 1 of the ALCS, we were in his bedroom, and we took all of his stuffed Red Sox toys—three bears; a disturbing-looking baseball with a face, arms and legs; and a little stuffed Wally doll—and, while I clustered together one hand from each of them, we placed our hands on top and did the “One, two, three: GOOOOOOOO RED SOX!!” thing. And they won.

Then we forgot … before Games 2, 3 and 4. When I broke the news to Zan each morning following the losses, he would say, “We forgot to do the cheer!”

So there we were: the Sox were about to get eliminated, and it was, of course, all because we forgot to do the cheer.

And not only did we forget to do the cheer, but I was dressed entirely wrong. I had to act fast.

I dashed into the bedroom, shed the non-magical duds I was wearing, and threw on my authentic Jason Varitek Red Sox home-game jersey, my 2004 World Series Champions hat and the same shorts—now tattered—that, along with the aforementioned jersey and hat, I had worn for last year’s ALCS Game 5, when the Sox were down three games to one, and rebounded for a three-game streak that sent them to the World Series, which they then swept.

As I emerged from the bedroom and passed the soon-to-be-slumbering Wonder Woman in the kitchen, she gave me the look … the one that says, “Dear god, I married a crazy person.”

“I’m pulling out the big guns,” I told her before grabbing the stuffed Wally doll and heading upstairs.

I entered Zan’s room and, by the dim glow of his nightlight, gathered the rest of the stuffed-Sox crew. I sat on his bed, clustered their hands together in my left, grabbed his right wrist, placed his limp hand on top, then covered it with my right. He stirred a little bit and, for a split second, looked at me groggily.

“Gotta do the cheer, buddy,” I said, then whispered, “One, two, three … goooo Red Sox.”

Wally in tow, I headed back to the family room, stopping first in our bedroom to say goodnight to Wonder Woman, who had just crawled into bed.

“We’re all set,” I told her. “We did the cheer.”

Another scornful look. How dare she not buy into my neurosis?

Back to the couch. I sat Wally down on one side and planted myself on the other. Tampa Bay scored two more runs in the top of the seventh, making it 7-0, and then had the Sox down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh. The Rays were seven outs away from going to the World Series, and the TBS announcers were essentially reading the Sox’s obituary.

“There is, we have just been told, champagne on ice in the visitors’ club house,” one of them said.

Clearly, they were unaware that I had just shifted the entire balance of the game by changing clothes and collaborating in the dark with a group of stuffed animals and a sound-asleep 5-year-old.

The accompanying photo was taken at around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 17, minutes after the Sox executed the greatest postseason come-from-behind victory in 79 years.

You’re welcome.

Game 6, tonight, in Tampa.

(P.S.: Here’s what I stayed up doing till 2:30 a.m. that night/morning, which also was featured on the Dirt Dogs website.)

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I actually quoted Dokken in my yearbook. Dokken. What a tool.

My 20-year high-school reunion is coming up next month, and I simply can’t suppress the urge to say “Whoopdeefreakindoo!”

I keep waiting to feel bubbling up within me some desire to attend this event, but, so far, when I imagine waking up on the Sunday morning after it takes place, I have no premonition of regret about having skipped it.

See, here’s the thing: I hated high school. When adults would say, “Enjoy it! These are the best years of your life!,” I could only assume that life was really gonna suck after graduation. (I am very happy to report that each of the 20 years I’ve lived since graduating high school have been better than any of the four I spent there.)

Admittedly, a big part of why my high school experience sucked was the fact that I looked like a short, skinny, mulleted bobblehead doll. I mean, look at that picture. Sweet Jesus. Let’s just say that the ladies weren’t exactly lining up for dates. (I remember telling Wonder Woman years ago that I had been the second smallest kid in my high school until my junior year. She said she knew I must be telling her the truth about that, because I knew there was one kid smaller than me.)

To be fair, I did have a lot of close friends who were female. Developed some serious crushes on a few of them, too. Unfortunately, when you look like Farmer Ted, teenage girls don’t want to date you; they want you to be their cute, harmless-as-a-puppy-dog guy friend who can serve as an emotional tampon while they cry to you about how the jerk-off hockey player they hooked up with at that party last weekend hasn’t given them the time of day since.

But I’m not bitter.

Of course, it didn’t help that, throughout much of my high-school years, my parents were going through an ugly separation and divorce—which, at the time, I saw as a bit of a blessing, because having my father move out meant that there was one less person in the house with whom I had to argue on a daily basis. Still, that’s a pretty bleak silver lining in a fairly large, extremely dark cloud.

It also didn’t help that I almost flunked out of school on more than one occasion. (When I was 31, I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, and that diagnosis was made, in part, by report cards and teachers’ comments dating back to elementary school. Back then, they didn’t diagnose ADD; they called you lazy and said you didn’t apply yourself.)

One week before my senior year started, I enlisted in the army, with my departure set for one month after graduation. I was one of maybe three guys in my entire graduating class who, instead of going off to college, entered the military. I knew that I hated school, I knew that I would have flunked out of college, and, regardless, I just wanted to get the fuck out of Dodge.

I spent four months in Alabama for basic training and military-police school. During that short time, I grew two inches and gained 26 pounds. When I got out of the army, I went to college, made Dean’s list every semester and graduated with honors.

So, no, I don’t for a moment miss high school.

Most of the people with whom I was truly close during high school, I have remained friends with since—and before we all had kids and enormous mortgages that we couldn’t afford and lives that were completely unmanageable, we actually saw each other once in a while.

As for the more distant acquaintances—well, can’t we all just agree that Facebook eliminates the need for a high school reunion? It’s the perfect compromise. People whom you’ve forgotten about come out of the woodwork, but are kept at a safe distance. Pictures allow you to see how well or how poorly they’ve aged. Don’t really wanna reconnect with a particular person? Just click “Ignore” on that “Friend” request, my brotha. (“The user will not be notified.” Perfect!)

On the other hand, attending the reunion would mean a night out of the house without the kids, surrounded by adults—and alcohol. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll go. If nothing else, it’ll give me something to blog about.

[UPDATE: No, I didn’t go. And I don’t regret it.]

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