Archive for May, 2007

A Conversation with Rick O’Shea

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, absent-mindedly stirring a cup of black, no sugar, when the bell on the door rings and in walks my old friend, Rick O’Shea.  His broad smile simply lights up the otherwise dreary, coffee-stained room as he walks over and sits down in my booth.

“How about those Celtics?” he asks through his toothy grin.  Rick grew up rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Yankees, and the Oakland Raiders, and he loves nothing more than to talk about bad things happening to Boston teams. 

Just his luck, last night something bad did happen.  The Celtics, who had the 2nd worst record in the NBA last year, missed out on the coveted first two picks in last night’s draft lottery, and ended up with the 5th pick.  This means that potential superstars Greg Oden (from Ohio State) and Kevin Durant (from Texas) will not be coming to rescue the Boston franchise from more then 10 years of mediocrity. 

“I thought that I had given up on the Celtics a few years back, but I am legitimately depressed today,” I reply.  “First, Celts GM Danny Ainge screwed up last year’s draft by trading the eventual Rookie of the Year for Sebastian Telfair (who drives around with guns in his trunk) and then this happens.  The only thing that is helping, just a little, is that the Red Sox are mashing the Yankees this year.  Did you see last night’s game?” 

“I love watching Red Sox fans get excited in May.  It’s cute.  You and I both know that by August, things are going to be different.”  Rick picked up his coffee cup and took a long, luxurious drink. 

“I love watching Yankee fans pin their hopes on a 45-year old pitcher who will pitch 5 innings a game and will only show up when it’s his turn to pitch.  With guys like that on your team where do people get the idea that the Yankees are a bunch of overpaid elitist prima donnas?” 

“Overpai-urk!”  Rick chokes slightly and has to put down his coffee cup while he coughs. 

“Rick, you are not a coffee fish.  You cannot breathe your coffee.”  Sound advice if I’ve ever heard it. 

Rick wipes his mouth with a napkin and starts again.  “After the Red Sox went out and dropped $100 million on that Dice-K guy, I don’t think that they can call the Yankees the ‘Evil Empire’ any more.  I mean, you went out and paid premium dough for a right fielder, a shortstop, and a starting pitcher, so there’s no more whining about the Yankees having all-stars at every position.” 

“The playing field is much more level between the Sox and Yanks now.  It is nice to have a team that can simply spend to solve a hole in the lineup.  I can’t imagine being a Kansas City Royals fan right now.  I was jealous of that team when they were winning in the early 1980’s, but now they are just pathetic…kind of like the Oakland Raiders.” 

“Wait until you see Randy Moss dog it for the Patriots.  There’s going to be some play where the ball isn’t coming to him and he’ll just stand there like a statue.” 

“Belichick would either simply explode on the sidelines or he’d have to have Moss killed.  I admit that I’m a bit nervous about it.  It’s the irresistible force against the uncoachable object.” 

“You think that because Bill was able to get Corey Dillon to come around, that the same Jedi mind trick will work on Moss?  Good luck with that.”                                                                                                 

“Now that they’ve traded Moss, how do you think your beloved Raiders will do?” 

“You know, I’m actually not that fired up about the Raiders lately.  I’ve found that I’m more of a Colts fan these days.” 

I look at my watch and decide that it was time to go.  Finding out that Rick, the personification of every dedicated anti-Boston front-runner living in Massachusetts is now a Colts fan is like finding out that Legal Seafood sells fish. 

“Rick, I have to run.” 

“See you…hey, real sorry about the Celtics.”

Sports Tim 25 May 2007 No Comments

Local Politics

I’m an amateur political junkie.  I am the guy who votes in every election, be it local, statewide, or national.  I enjoy watching debates, talking about politics, reading campaign material, talking to candidates, predicting election outcomes, and reading people’s opinions about politics on www.clintonmass.com.  My town, Clinton, had an election recently that got my blood pumping a little, and the following are some of my observations about the event:

Quick:  What day of the week is Election Day? 

If you said, “Tuesday,” I’m sorry, but you get the “Wheel of Fortune” ceramic Dalmatian consolation prize.  The correct answer is, “It depends.” 

If it’s a national or statewide election, then Tuesday is the day.  If it’s a local election in my town, however, voting is done on a Monday.  I’m not sure why this is the case; although I have been told by a number of people that local elections in my town have been held on Mondays for years and years. 

I disagree with that policy.  Election Day, in Clinton or anywhere, should always be on a Tuesday, if only to keep the casual voter from having to figure it out.  If there is an election coming up, people would know to vote on Tuesday, no questions asked, instead of having to consciously register the date of the election and look up what day of the week it is. 

I know of at least 3 people in my town who hadn’t realized that they needed to vote on Monday in the most recent town election.  They had simply assumed that the vote would be on Tuesday. 

Changing all elections so that they fall on Tuesdays would certainly not hurt voter turnout in these days of limited voter involvement… 

…This election has been a political junkie’s dream.  Most of the races were very close, (according to multiple sources, several races were decided by fewer than 75 votes) and the race for Planning Board between Rebecca Stahl and Cliff Thompson was a dead even tie after the manual count of the votes. 

Now there are 3 three recounts in the works, one for each Planning Board seat, and one in the race for Selectman, with only the future of the town at stake.  It feels good to have my vote count so much… 

…The “Touch of Class” Award for this election goes to Nibben O’Toole from Clinton, who was re-elected to the Board of Health over Deborah Grant.  It is the third time that Mr. O’Toole has defeated Mrs. Grant in a run for the Board, and he was quoted in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette as saying, “Three strikes and you’re out, Debbie. Goodbye.” 

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must report that Mrs. Grant is my wife’s cousin, but that fact does not make Mr. O’Toole’s statement any less obnoxious.  It’s the sort of thing that a winning candidate might say privately to their friends or supporters, but not to a newspaper reporter. 

In the words of the late Paul “Bear” Bryant, “Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself.”… 

…The residents of the Town of Clinton have been receiving regular letters regarding the quality of the town’s water, which seems to be failing different tests from time to time.  Now, the letters stress that no actions need to be taken by the town’s residents, but I know that, to me, letters about the quality of my water are a little alarming.  In fact, I would call it a major concern for me that our town water is failing any tests that require me to be officially informed. 

That is why I was surprised during the recent debate involving the candidates for Selectman when the candidates were informed that the water provided for them was Clinton town water; one of the candidates tasted the water and said something to the effect of, “Tastes pretty good to me.”

That is exactly the sort of statement that I have a tendency to overreact about.  I’m fairly sure that the candidate didn’t mean anything negative, but I took that statement to mean that the candidate did not consider that the letters we have been receiving are any big deal. 

I mean, what exactly was the candidate trying to say?  That the people of Clinton don’t deserve good water, and that whatever failing water they give us is good enough?  That the water issue is only worth a throwaway line about how good the water tastes?  That the candidate is one of the common people because of a willingness to drink potentially problematic water?  .  If my town’s water is failing tests important enough to generate mail to my home, I don’t particularly care if it tastes like chocolate cake, I want the problem fixed. 

Like I said, I overreacted. I’m sure that the statement didn’t mean any of that (which is why I’m not mentioning the candidate by name), but it caught me the wrong way, and cost the candidate my vote.  I expect issues with the water to be dealt with only in the most serious manner.  I know that the letter says that there is no action required on my part, but just to be safe I’ve been drinking the bottled stuff… 

…And finally, on a completely non-election related note, I would like to extend a big welcome home to Clinton native 1st Lt. Matthew Hohl, who recently returned from a tour of duty in Al Anbar, Iraq.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 18 May 2007 No Comments

Spiders! Run!

Alligators and snakes don’t bother me in the least. Spiders bother me. I can’t stand them. When I see a spider crawling around, I will get goose bumps; then I will generally waffle it with a tennis racket, shovel, or small child. Part of the reason why I enjoy living in the Northeast instead of places like Florida is that there aren’t as many creepy crawly poisonous things hanging around up here, as many creepy crawly things seem to be somewhat allergic to cold weather. In general, shoveling snow once in a while is worth not having to shake out my shoes every morning.

One winter, a number of years ago, I was sent to Florida, along with other members of my Air National Guard unit, to install radar equipment at the Shuttle Landing Facility. It was a great trip: we traveled all over Florida and got to see a Patriots-Dolphins game, a shuttle launch, Busch Gardens, and some seriously large alligators and snakes that were just resting by the side of the road.

So, I’m in Florida on the second night of the trip, and I’m hungry. I’ve had a couple of beers and I’ve talked my friend Keith into driving the rented van to the Taco Bell drive-through, where we’re sitting, sweating in the evening heat. In front of us in the line are a couple of guys on foot, one wearing a tie-dye t-shirt, sandals, and long, scraggly hair and the other wearing a Pink Floyd shirt, sandals, and long, scraggly hair. These guys have clearly been partying all day and who have just as clearly been struck by a case of the munchies.

Suddenly, there is a THUD, and the rented van rocks a little. I look up to see the black eyes of the largest spider on the planet staring back at me from the Keith’s side of the windshield. The body is a dull, buffed yellow, each eye is a shiny, empty black circle the size of a small button, and its fangs are huge daggers of dripping poison. Hanging out of the spider’s mouth is a small, pink feather, and I imagine that the beast probably got sick of hunting flamingoes and decided to have a go at our van.

I notice that Keith’s window is open. In a panic, I shout, “Keith, shut your – “ but it’s too late. With a grace uncommon to a predator of that size, the spider has slipped into the van and is now standing on the inside of the windshield. I carefully unlock the passenger door, while Keith leans out the window.

“Hey,” he shouts to the two guys in front of us, “we’ll buy you each a taco if you come get this spider out of our van.”

Free tacos are music to the ears of our grungy friends, and they move back to the van to survey the problem. Whatever they have spent their day doing has apparently given them nerves of steel, because after a quick look, the tie-dye kid reaches inside the van and GRABS THE SPIDER BY THE LEG! This kid is either the bravest man alive, or he has totally fried his brain.

There is a sudden blur of motion, as the spider attempts to simultaneously free itself and eat the tie-dye kid. The tie-dye kid, showing remarkably good instincts for the first time, drops the spider. It lands on the dashboard, denting it slightly, and then disappears into the heating vent. We wait a moment, but the creature does not re-appear.

Despite tie die kid’s cowardice, Keith and I agree to hold up our end of the bargain and buy them tacos. Unfortunately, however, by the time we get to the window, this particular Taco Bell is out of food. The person at the window directs us to another Taco Bell a mile away and we wave goodbye to the brave, yet sad and taco-less tie-die guy and his cohort, Pink Floyd man.

It is after we have placed our order, and while we are driving up to the window at the next Taco Bell, that I see movement out of the corner of my eye. I look at the dashboard and see that the spider has moved out of my heating vent and onto the dashboard in front of me.

My lip quivers in horror as I stare at the spider, and the spider stares back into my soul. To quote Quint from Jaws, “…he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes.” It’s a primal moment, one of fight or flight; me or the spider.

By the time Keith hears my scream, the door of the still-moving van is open and I am off, sprinting toward Massachusetts.

Back in the Day Tim 11 May 2007 1 Comment