Patriotic duty

This morning, I taped my “Veterans for Obama” sign to my front-door window. I did so to compensate for the fact that some asshole walked all the way up to the front of my house in broad daylight yesterday and stole my Obama yard sign. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that the lack of signage in my front yard won’t have a substantial impact on Obama’s final vote tally tomorrow.

Though I served in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1992, it took me a while to actually internalize the fact that I am a “veteran.” Part of my inability to identify with that label on any meaningful level was the fact that I did not serve in a combat zone. I was active duty during the first Gulf War, and I am classified as a “Gulf War vet,” but my K-9 partner and I were patrolling a base in the Mojave Desert and doing narcotics searches in New York City, not ducking rounds in the Kuwaiti desert and wondering if we’d make it home.

My father served on a naval destroyer in the South Pacific during Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, one of them a marine who experienced heavy combat on Iwo Jima. They are the types of men I picture when I think of the word “veteran.”

That said, I have come to embrace my veteran’s status over the past eight years, largely because of my outrage over the fact that thousands of service members have been getting maimed and slaughtered as the result of a war I strongly opposed from Day One.

Many people who never served like to claim that “opposing the war” is synonymous with “not supporting our troops.” As a former one of those troops, I can assure you that’s bullshit.

Supporting our troops means not putting them in harm’s way unless all other options have been exhausted, and getting them out of harm’s way if a group of draft-dodging, chicken-hawk politicians with poor judgement and questionable motives uses them like disposable pawns in a preemptive, mismanaged war that never should have been waged.

I’m looking forward to voting today.

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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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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



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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