Archive for February, 2006

Hot Flashes

Random thoughts that have been recently scraped from the inside of my cranium: 

The Town of Clinton lost a prince of a man last week when Harold Naughton, Sr. passed away.  I had the good fortune to meet him several times and he always had a kind word to say or a funny story to tell.  The fact that so many people were willing to endure the bitter cold and the long line at his wake this past Sunday was a true testament to the man’s character.  The world is an emptier place without his impish grin and golden sense of humor… 

…Speaking of the weather, the past couple of weeks have been as topsy-turvy as any in my memory.  First, it snows about 18 inches worth.  Then the temperature jumps into the 50’s and all of the snow melts.  Then there are gale force winds that knock down trees and fences all over the northeast.  Then the weather turns bitterly cold.  I am now officially nervous about a storm featuring hailing frogs… 

…I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend in the emails that I’ve received lately.  Some people have begun putting ellipses (…) at the end of their emails.  For example, the email might say, “Thanks…” The writer is probably just trying to be stylish or dramatic, but the ellipse there at the end leaves me wondering what else the person really wanted to say.  Perhaps they really meant, “Thanks, and although I don’t have time to write it now, I have a lot more to say to you.  In fact, I sort of hate you.”  If there is any doubt, please, just use a period and be done with it, unless you indeed hate me.  Thanks… 

…I was watching HBO’s Real Sports a while back and heard Bryant Gumbel make the following statement about the Winter Olympics:  “Count me among those who don’t care about them and won’t watch them. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.” 

I’m still not sure how I feel about what Gumbel said.  I was, however, surprised that no one in the media, other than some sports radio types, seemed to have anything to say about Mr. Gumbel’s views.  There was no media frenzy.  I have to think that people like Rush Limbaugh, John Rocker, Al Campanis, Isiah Thomas, and Jimmy the Greek would be disappointed…  

…I, unlike Bryant Gumbel, have been watching the Winter Olympics.  So far they have been fairly entertaining, but I find myself wondering why the two people with the most stories done about them have been Michelle Kwan and Bode Miller.  The US has won 7 gold medals, none by the aforementioned two, yet the lead story for a day of Olympic coverage is that Bode Miller missed a gate in a slalom race… 

…Speaking of the Winter Olympics, it gave me a warm feeling when a member of the US speed skating team, former world record holder and gold medal winner Shani Davis, refused to take part in a team race.  Without Davis, the US team never made it past the qualifier.  All for one and one for all, eh, Shani?… 

…I am waiting impatiently for the World Baseball Classic to begin.  There doesn’t seem to be much buzz about the tournament (which starts in March), but I want to see how the US measures up against Japan, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.  It’s a shame that some of the best players from the United States were afraid of the Olympic-style drug testing too concerned about getting injured to represent the United States… 

…I visited a friend and his wife a couple of weeks ago.  While I was there, I was absent-mindedly scratching their housecat behind the ears when, out of nowhere, the cat bit me on the hand.  The cat’s teeth didn’t break the skin, so it wasn’t a serious bite.  I said, “HEY, what are you doing?  I’m scratching you on the ears and you decide to see what my hand tastes like?”  The cat merely walked away, seemingly unmoved by my attempted guilt trip. 

The next day, my friend’s wife was pulling into the driveway when, out of nowhere, the cat ran underneath one of the minivan’s tires and was unfortunately killed.  I guess the lesson here is that, for the sake of everyone’s safety, I should probably lighten up on my guilt trips a little… 

With that, I think my cranium is empty, at least for the time being.  Until next time, stay safe and keep smiling, and for those of you who read the entire column, thanks…

The Day to Day Grind Tim 24 Feb 2006 No Comments

The Fours

I spend a decent amount of time these days reading people’s online journals, known as “blogs” (short for “web logs”).  The people who blog are known as “bloggers”, and a few of them gained fame a while back by exposing a false news story reported by Dan Rather.  Most of the bloggers I read are not trying to bring down nationally-known journalists; instead, they simply provide a peek into the daily lives of somewhat regular people.  One topic that has been making the rounds of my regular blogs lately is “The Fours”:  a list of details about the author, with four examples of each.  And so, without further ado: 

4 Jobs I’ve Had:

1.  Grocery Store Supervisor:  “Yes ma’am, I realize that your coupon gives you 50 cents off, but unfortunately that coupon is for Skippy peanut butter, not Jif….you know what, just shoot me now.”

2.  Carnival Worker (Carnie):  I did this for a summer so that I could hang out with the girl I was dating (her Dad owned a few carnival games).  For an entire summer, instead of going to the beach and partying with my friends, I traveled all over NY to work the “Throw a dime into a glass and you win the glass” game and talk about books with a guy who hammered nails into his nose for spare change.  No, it wasn’t worth it.

3.  Mutual Fund Accountant:  In my first “real job”, I worked for a mutual fund company in Quincy.  The job was kind of like being a rower on one of those old Viking ships, except with calculators, but at least I was working with people my own age who liked to party.  The work was pretty easy, the people were cool, and I got my very own BUSINESS CARDS, but I grew tired of eating expired bread three meals a day.

4.  Fiscal Director for the Governor’s Alliance Against Drugs:  My very first (and to date, only) position where I had my own office.  Shortly after I left this agency, it ceased to exist.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my fault.

4 Pet Peeves

1.  Spelling errors:  I admit that I don’t get angry with myself for typos and the like.  When I spell something incorrectly, it was an honest mistake, or I was rushing; when other people do it, I question their entire character.  I’m working on this.

2.  People who feel they are too important to wait in traffic:  Don’t come zipping up the breakdown lane and then try to cut me off.  Just don’t.  I write about this too much.

3.  Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream:  In college there was a self serve ice cream bar, but once any of the scoops was used for mint chocolate chip, everyone who used that scoop (or other scoops in the water bath with it) got to “enjoy” that flavor.  My simple formula:  Mint = Evil.  Yes, I take ice cream very seriously.

4.  Hypocrites and people who think they are better than me (probably a repeat of #2 above):  I once met a guy when I was in college and within 2 minutes he told me, “I’m probably smarter than you are.”

4 Places I’ve Lived

1.  My parents’ house in Northboro.  There were 5 kids and 1 bathroom and I have no idea how that worked.

2.  A fraternity house with a rug in the kitchen and an atmosphere that can best be described as “stale beer”.  Oh, and we had a rat that was as big as my foot.  We had a DJ booth, great parties, and round the clock foosball…until the fire.  I still get a tear in my eye thinking about it.

3.  7 years in West Roxbury/South Boston:  Also known as “my common law marriage to a man named Frasier”.  We could put anything we wanted on the curb and the trash guys would take it…including a couch and two old easy chairs.  I’m not sure if the television worked on any channel other than ESPN.  Good times.

4.  A small house in Clinton with the Megger and a cute but decidedly non-cuddly dog.  It’s home to me…at least until we find a house with a fireplace.

4 Movies I Own (and therefore never watch any more)

1.  Pulp Fiction:  “Mmmm! (bad word), Jimmie! This is some serious gourmet (bad word)! Usually, me and Vince would be happy with some freeze-dried Taster’s Choice, but he springs this serious GOURMET (bad word) on us! What flavor is this?”

2.  Trading Places:  “’Cause I’m a karate man, see! And a karate man bruises on the inside! They don’t show their weakness. But you don’t know that because you’re a big Barry White looking (really bad compound word)!”

3.  Rounders:  “You were lookin’ for that third three, but you forgot that Professor Green folded on Fourth Street and now you’re representing that you have it. The DA made his two pair, but he knows they’re no good. Judge Kaplan was trying to squeeze out a diamond flush but he came up short and Mr. Eisen is futilely hoping that his queens are going to stand up. So like I said, the Dean’s bet is $20.”

4.  Glengarry Glen Ross:  “These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. To you, these are gold; you do not get these. Because to give them to you would be throwing them away.”

4 Websites I hit daily

1. Cool blog.

2.  Ditto.

3.  I’m a fanatic, what can I say?

4.  I seem to be getting hooked on web-comics, as well.

4 Things that Scare Me

1.  Spiders:  I don’t want spiders touching me, being near me, or crawling on me, but I am not afraid to kill them with heavy objects.  I have had a rule with everyone I have ever lived with that if they ever use my fear of spiders against me (for example, spiders in my bed), I will dedicate myself to ruining their lives.  None of them has ever chanced it. 

2.  Ghosts:  When I heard that my house had been home to 5 families in 15 years, I was honestly concerned that it was haunted.  I’ve checked it out and it seems clean so far…plus if there were ghosts, my dog would bark at them and scare them away.

3.  My wife’s driving:  Ok, this is probably worth a week on the couch.  Of course, the other day I drove on the wrong side of a divided street, causing all of my passengers to scream in fear for their lives, but just for a second.

4.  Heights:  Not petrified of them, but I’m definitely not a fan.

That’s it.  If this was a normal column, I would write something to tie everything in with the opening paragraph.  But I’m pretending that this is a blog, so I get to just end things here, all untied.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 17 Feb 2006 No Comments

Big Bro

When my oldest brother Mike asked me to play basketball with him that summer day in 1994, I’m sure he was brimming with confidence.  After all, in the countless games of hoop we played against each other in the 23 years I had been on the earth, I had never been able to beat him in a game to 11 points.  Not one time.  I know this because I am a competitive person and I kept track.

My brother Mike is a natural athlete and he loves competition.  In high school he starred in both baseball and soccer (well, he tells that he starred, anyway).  He picked up skiing the first time he tried it and his golf handicap is somewhere south of 10.  In basketball, he has a reliable outside shot and a pretty quick first step.  If you’re between him and the hoop, he won’t hesitate to go through you; not because he’s a dirty player or mean-spirited, but rather because he is caught up in the game.  

The first batch of years I played basketball against Mike shouldn’t really count, since he is about 14 years older than I am.  We played a bunch of times during those years, but it wasn’t what I would call a competitive match-up. 

In high school, I played on my local CYC basketball team.  It was during that time that I developed a pretty fair Kevin McHale-style hook shot.  The hook shot was my best option, since I lacked both speed and leaping ability, and with practice, it actually went in a fair amount of the time.  Before Kevin McHale’s lawyer files a lawsuit against me, I feel compelled to admit that MY hook shot looked exactly like an awkward, chubby teenager desperately flinging a basketball toward the rim and nothing like the fluid grace of my favorite Boston Celtic. 

No matter what it might have looked like, the awkward fling shot didn’t do me any good against big brother.  I would occasionally spend weekends at his house, losing one game after another as he stood in his driveway and hit shot after shot.  If I dared to get close enough to use my extra inch of height to prevent his outside shots, he would simply race past me for a lay-up.  This happened game after game after game. 

Some people might have given up, but I always looked forward to playing with Mike, even though I wasn’t winning.  We weren’t likely to pick up a phone and chat in those days, so basketball gave us a chance to hang out and talk, and it was fun; even if he tended to elbow me in the ribs while chasing rebounds. 

After high school, I joined the Air National Guard and spent a number of months attending technical school in Biloxi, Mississippi.  In Biloxi, when I wasn’t attending class or marching in straight lines, I was playing basketball.  Playing up to 3 hours a day, I lost a bunch of weight and developed an outside shot.  By the time I came home, I was confident that Mike’s reign of terror would finally end. 

It wasn’t even close.  We were walking off of the court after the third consecutive 11-2 drubbing when he twisted the knife, just a little, by saying, “Gee, I thought you were going to be better than that.”  Funny, I had thought the same thing.  

With my college years came more basketball.  I played every chance I got, but I still couldn’t manage to beat my brother.  I would get a lead, miss a shot, and he would go on a streak to beat me. 

That is, until that fateful day in 1994 when the sky was blue and just the slightest breeze tickled the nets at Ellsworth-McAfee Park in Northboro. 

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast that morning, and I don’t remember what I did that night, but I will never forget that I finally beat my big brother at basketball that afternoon. 

The game is a bit of a blur, to be honest, but I remember that he had the ball and I was ahead, 10 to 9.  I walked out to the foul line to guard him, and he had started to move past me when the most wonderful thing happened:  I stole the ball away from him. 

This was uncharted territory. 

I dribbled the ball back past the foul line and then turned and quickly drove toward the basket on the right side.  Mike moved back to cut me off, but I surprised him by pulling up short and releasing a quick jump shot.  The ball arced through the cylinder before nestling into the bottom of the net for a moment.  By the time the ball fell from the net and hit the court the streak was over. 

Mike patted me on the shoulder and made some crack about it being about time and that he didn’t mind having a record of 2,000-1.  I just smiled. 

It’s now been years since we’ve played against each other.  His back is creaky (he’s more of a golfer now) and I’m far from playing shape.  We did play a number of times after the streak ended, I won some and he won some, but it was never quite the same.  In thinking about it now, I think that a small part of me wishes that I hadn’t beaten him. 

Ok, that’s not true at all.  I wish I had beaten him years earlier.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 10 Feb 2006 No Comments

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