Archive for January, 2004


It’s official!  Small pockets of Iowans have emerged from their smoke-filled back rooms and declared that John Kerry shall lead the Democratic Party in 2004.  Senator Kerry will undoubtedly now speak to past Iowa Caucus winners Tom Harkin (1992), Richard Gephardt (1988), and Uncommitted (1976), about how their victories propelled them to the Democratic Party’s nomination for President.

Of all the caucuses (caucusii?) in the country, the Iowa Caucus is traditionally the most important.  It is so important, in fact, that only about a quarter of the candidates decided to skip the contest entirely this year.  A small factor like candidate apathy wasn’t able to keep the national media away, however, because this is the first caucus of 2004, and therefore a VERY BIG DEAL.  This is the first opportunity for the press to officially begin their hobby of building candidates up and then tearing them down.

This means that for the past two weeks, any John Q. Iowa who wanted a morning cup of coffee had to wade through an ocean of national media people shouting questions about John F. Kerry’s hair.  This unique experience probably had John Q. Iowa thinking, “Why couldn’t we be the SECOND caucus in the country….and how did these reporters get into my kitchen?”

Well rest easy, Mr. Iowa.  The most famous of the caucusii has ended.  You and your fellow caucusers have performed your national duty by crushing the spirit of the candidates who considered Iowa a “must-win” situation (paging Mr. Gephardt…Mr. Gephardt to the white courtesy phone please).

Iowans can return to being completely ignored by the national media for another four years now that the flocks of reporters have migrated east to cover the nation’s first Presidential Primary.  The media hordes will now pester the residents of Dixville Notch, NH, about Senator Lieberman’s teeth (Are they “Presidential” enough?).

Primaries are different from caucuses because in primaries, voters can decide that it’s too cold to bother voting at official polling places, as opposed to being too lazy to caucus in their neighbor’s basements.

If Senator Kerry’s hair should be fortunate enough to win the New Hampshire Primary, his future as a national party nominee will be assured, as were the futures of past New Hampshire winners John McCain (2000), Pat Buchanan (1996), and Paul Tsongas (1992).

If they can survive January 27th in New Hampshire, the next major milestone for the Democratic hopefuls is known as “Super Tuesday”.  “Super Tuesday” this year is on March 2nd, and it will feature super primaries and caucuses in eleven states, including Massachusetts.  This is not to be confused with “Fair to Middling Tuesday”, February 3rd, when 7 states will hold primaries and caucuses that are nothing out of the ordinary.

The great campaign has officially begun.  Hands are being shaken, babies are being kissed, and empty promises are being made.  The candidates are trying to attack one another without seeming “mean-spirited”.  The impartial national media is exerting influence on people’s voting decisions.  John F. Kerry is riding high, Howard Dean is screaming, and the Patriots are in the Super Bowl.  I am Tim McCaffrey, and I have authorized this column.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 23 Jan 2004 No Comments

The Battery Cartel

The person on the other end of the phone was in Key West.  I knew it was a matter of time before he asked, and he did not let me down.  “What is the temperature in Massachusetts today?” 

This was not a nice question.  The person already knew that the answer was 3 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 22 with wind chill), so he was blatantly creating an opportunity to deliver the news that it was “only” 75 degrees in Key West.  After a slight pause, he twisted the knife, “I’m thinking of putting on a sweater.”

I hung up on him.  While he was pondering which blue and orange sweater vest would match his green plaid golf pants, I was stuck facing the horrific realities of January weather in New England. 

As a veteran of many New England Januaries, I can handle the frozen boogies, chapped lips, and cold steering wheels.  What makes January difficult is that moment every morning when I wonder if today is the day that my car battery will die.  Every turn of the key in January is a spin on the battery slot machine.

This is an annual windfall for the Battery Cartel.  It is the worst kept secret in town that the Cartel gives Mother Nature a little something extra in her Christmas stocking every year.  In return, she keeps their business booming with frigid temperatures.

A few years ago, I was the unwitting victim of the conspiracy.

It was the coldest day of January 2000.  I was working in downtown Boston at the time, and had parked my Jeep overnight in an outside lot.  At some point during the night, some Cartel hooligan must have broken into my Jeep and turned on the dome light.  My wife has some silly theory that I forgot and left the light on because nothing in the Jeep was broken or stolen, but that is obviously ridiculous.

Whatever the reason, when my wife and I showed up the next morning to claim my car, it absolutely refused to start.  We called the towing service for a jump-start, but they weren’t going to show up for about 4 days.  The temperature outside was approximately 17 below, and things were looking bleak.

It was at that moment that one of those large vacuum trucks pulled into the lot.  The driver recognized my plight and kindly offered to pull the Jeep with his truck while I popped the clutch in an attempt to get the engine to start.

We hooked a rope to the back of his truck and to the front of the Jeep, and he dragged me all over that icy parking lot.  I repeatedly popped the clutch, but the engine stubbornly refused to start.  After about 10 minutes of this, I looked down and saw that my parking brake had been set the entire time.  The Cartel hooligan had struck again!  It became clear that I was dealing with a superior criminal intellect. 

I was in the process of dusting the Jeep for fingerprints when the vacuum truck driver knocked on my window.

“Dragging you around doesn’t seem to be working very well, and I have to get to work.  Maybe we should try to jump-start your Jeep with the gigantic battery I have on my truck.”

We hooked up the jumper cables, and the Jeep’s engine roared to life.  I thanked the driver and drove off to waste a frigid January day shopping for a new battery.  Battery Cartel 1, McCaffrey 0.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 16 Jan 2004 No Comments

I’m in the Clear…or was it Cream?

I have an admission to make.  Last year, in an effort to maximize my abilities as a columnist, I contacted an outlaw friend of mine and asked him to provide me with the designer steroid known as “the cream.” 

I met him on a dark street corner a week later, and he gave me a large white container that had the label torn off and that was filled with a white, pasty cream.  From then on, every time I needed more of the cream, I would arrange another secret meeting with him.  

My hope was that this illegal drug would give me an unfair advantage over my fellow writers.  I was sure that fame and fortune would soon follow, and I was not concerned about the impact the drugs would have on my health. 

Designer steroids have recently received national attention as the focus of a federal investigation.  It has been reported that baseball players Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds have admitted the use of “the cream” and another steroid known as “the clear” to a federal grand jury. 

I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time before the federal probe catches me in its web.  Hopefully, at the very least, my experience will finally convince newspapers to test their writers to be sure that everyone is writing “on the level.”  

To be honest, I wish that I had never gotten involved with “the cream” in the first place.  I didn’t experience any dramatic improvement in my writing, nor was I able to dramatically improve the speed with which I wrote my columns. 

The only noticeable benefit of “the cream” was that it seemed to completely eliminate dry skin.  It actually made my skin feel kind of nice.  I started out rubbing it on my forehead, to give it easier access to my brain, and noticed immediately that dry scalp was no longer an issue. 

I then tried it on my elbows, and just like that, my dry, scaly elbow skin was a thing of the past. 

There was a very strange side effect, as well.  Whenever I walked out onto my lawn, or watched golf on television, I became hungry.  Mowing the lawn would produce an almost insatiable hunger in the pit of my stomach.

I continued to use “the cream”, however, because I was convinced that I would eventually begin to see improvements.  I tried to exercise my brain by reading Shakespeare, attempting difficult crossword puzzles, and copying words out of the dictionary with a pen and paper, but to no avail. 

There was also an overwhelming sense of guilt.  I was a cheater.  If anyone ever found out, I would be subjected to an incredible amount of public scorn and ridicule.  My family would be forever shamed. 

Finally, I couldn’t take the pressure any more.  The next time we met, I told my dealer that I wanted nothing more to do with him and his wretched cream.  I told him that I was thinking of turning myself in, and that he would most likely be implicated in the scandal. 

He laughed in my face.  He told me that he had been selling me large quantities of something called “Udder Cream.”  He encouraged me to call the authorities and to tell them all about it.  He then told me that I would be making a fool of myself. 

Clearly, he’s in denial.  Why would the authorities care about the brand name of the cream I was taking?  I promised that I would try to keep his name out of it and went on my way, happy to finally be drug-free. 

I appreciate the fact that this newspaper gave me an opportunity to tell my side of the story.  To all of my readers, I would like to apologize for using “Udder Cream” in an attempt to be a better writer. 

I can proudly say that I have stopped all use of the cream.  Scaly elbows are a small price to pay for a clean conscience.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 15 Jan 2004 No Comments

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