Archive for January, 2009

Rambling Men

I was sitting in the local coffee shop when I heard the bell over the door jingle. I didn’t look up from my paper, but heard the chair across the table from me screech against the floor as it was pulled out and then there was a thump as a body settled into the chair. I looked up and saw my old friend Rick O’Shea beaming at me.

“How’s things old chum?” he asked.

Things are pretty good. Tell me, was there some newsworthy event this week? I keep thinking that something important happened, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it. I watched TV and looked at the paper, but none of them seem to mention it.

“If you’re talking about my Yankees stealing Mark Teixeira from the Sox, that was a while back. And I think that the fact that the Sox are signing every old, injured pitcher in sight isn’t exactly front-page news anymore. Also, the World Baseball Classic hasn’t started yet, so the Red Sox players participating haven’t had a chance to get hurt.”

No, no. It was something political. Hmm.

“Do you mean to tell me that you are not awash in the spirit of change? Didn’t you feel a difference in the air this past Tuesday, around noonish?”

Oh, do you mean when Chris Matthews fainted like an overwhelmed bobby soxer? Yes, on Tuesday I noticed a background noise made up of the excited chattering of every Democrat I know. They haven’t been this happy since Carter gave away the Panama Canal. Everywhere I went on Tuesday, liberals were gathering into small groups to express their glee to each other and exult in the day. It was really nice being around so many positive vibes.

“So, of course, some people are grumpy about the oath not being applied correctly, and because of the rhymes that the 87-year old preacher laid down. Really, that’s what people are focusing on?”

I admit that I thought the fumbling of the oath was a funny moment, but people who focus on it really need to relax a bit. I mean, people are saying that Roberts should hustle over to the White House and redo the oath with Obama, just to set things right. I’d like to think that there are more important things to think about. Like Aretha Franklin mumbling through her song. It was like, werqcasdfp…freedom ring! That’s the important stuff to be thinking about.

“Not for your cranky Republican brethren. They are talking conspiracy theories and invalid oaths. It’s all over talk radio. I think they are a bit desperate to find something negative to complain about.”

For the record, I will soon be unenrolled. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

“Well, then, as an unenrolled voter, you won’t care that the tiny Massachusetts Republican faction in the State House is becoming fractured.”

Yeah, I saw that. I understand that there are people in the House who wanted a change in leadership, but they lost fair and square. Now, having lost, instead of trying to influence change from within, they are whining to the press and polarizing what is already a small group. You took your shot. You lost. Shut up.

“Well, it’s certainly a way for them to keep their names in the paper.”

Yes, it is certainly that. And, they are apparently telling people that one of the reasons they should be voted in is that they are physically attractive. The editor for the Telegram even mentioned ‘attractive personal qualities’ as a reason to put them in charge. Wild.

“That’s some serious criteria.”

Certainly. Beyonce for President.

“If that happened, I’d be sure to tune in for the Inaugural Ball coverage. That first dance would be something. Would it be impolite for her to dance to one of her own songs?”

I’m not sure about that one, but I’m sure whatever she decided, the other party would think it was a tremendous breach of etiquette.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 21 Jan 2009 4 Comments

So I’m a Little Crazy

I have realized that I have a bit of a problem. Recognizing the problem is the first step, I’m told, and that happened this past Tuesday night while I was sitting alone in a booth at a local bar. It’s not that I’m legitimately insane – I’m not delusional and I don’t play chess alone. Instead, I stress out in situations when space is limited, or as I like to think of it, when there is resource scarcity.

For example, when I lived in South Boston, there was a definite scarcity of parking spaces in my neighborhood. The way the system works is that there are more cars than legal spots, so the poor sucker who gets home last has to park illegally and pay the parking ticket. This is guaranteed income for the city. Therefore, once I got home from work and found a good parking spot, I was very reluctant to leave again, lest I be the poor sucker (or get stuck drive around for hours looking for a spot).

I’d sit in my living room, stressing about whether I should go grocery shopping, and risk the spot, or just order out (My scale can tell you which option I chose most of the time). When it came time to decide where I would live with my new bride, we specifically chose a town where I could afford to have my own driveway.

During that time period, (when I lived in South Boston), The Megger and I went in on a ski house in Killington, VT with a number of other people. There were a limited number of bedrooms in the house and the sleeping arrangements were first-come, first-served. So, naturally, instead of simply showing up and taking whatever was available, I would worry about getting to Killington as soon as possible on Friday night to claim a bed. If we waited, goodness knows what might happen, maybe we would have to sleep on the floor (nobody ever had to sleep on the floor, which is why my worrying is a mania and not a common sense reaction). This constant consternation turned what should have been a ski season into a stressful situation.

And I haven’t learned in my old age. I go on an annual ski trip with a number of friends these days, and the sleeping/parking situation is the same – first come/first served. Rather than go up at my leisure, I take Friday off from work and go up that morning – ostensibly to get in a half-day of skiing, but really to get a parking spot and bed.

This impacts my commute to work, as well. I was unable to use the commuter rail, in part because in order to get a “legal” parking spot, I had to get there at a ridiculous time in the morning. Tons of people use quasi-legal spots, but my psyche couldn’t handle that action.

Also, on the commute home, I have to take the Red Line to the commuter stop at Porter Square. One commuter train leaves Porter at 6:25pm, and the next train doesn’t leave until 7:45pm. So, if there was a problem on the Red Line somehow (which only happens every time I use the Red Line), I would be stuck in Cambridge until 7:45. I can’t deal with that kind of stress, so I drive to Alewife and take the Red Line.

However, that solution is not worry-free. On the way into work, I leave early enough to ensure that I will get a decent parking spot at Alewife, and the trains usually have plenty of room. I then stress all day about the trip home, however, since the trains are crowded, and I might not get a spot on the first one. Of course, in that case (which has happened), I simply get on the second one, or the third one, with no ill effects other than some time spent waiting (and increased traffic getting home). Yet, I am always anxious about getting out of work and getting on that train. Like, heart-racing anxiety. I know it’s ridiculous, but I don’t know how to chill about it.

So, Tuesday night I got to the local bar 1.5 hours early in an attempt to secure seating for our trivia team. I knew that we had more players than the allowed amount (which stressed me in itself, as I am a chronic rule-follower), and that we wouldn’t be able to stuff ourselves into a booth.

Unfortunately, there was a large group of people who had pushed all of the tables together so that they could enjoy some after-work drinks and appetizers (like people do). No table for me. Sweat began to bead on my forehead as I sat in a booth, sipping a beer and steepling my fingers on the table. I then realized that I have a problem. Now I just have to figure out how to relax. I’m thinking Aruba might help.

NOTE: Everything worked out fine (of course). Arrangements were made, and we ended up at a big table, no sweat (for everyone except me, that is).

The Day to Day Grind Tim 14 Jan 2009 No Comments

Tuesday Night Trivia

It’s Tuesday Night Trivia!

There are about 7 Tuesdays a year that I find myself without school or other commitments, and on those occasions I like to trek over to the Old Timer for a game of Tuesday Night Trivia. This evening, we are treated to the stylings of Joel the trivia master and his trusty scorekeeper SteveO.

When I show up, I see that our team has exceeded the 5-person limit. This would usually stress me out – I am a rule-follower by nature – but then I look over at the table where a team named “Bone Saw” is sitting and, to quote my brother-in-law Dave, “It looks like Thanksgiving Dinner over there.” I feel better. We name our team “Paging Dr. Gupta,” in reference to the recent rumor that Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN is going to be the Surgeon General.

Joel explains that there is a theme to tonight’s game, but that we have to figure it out for ourselves. We are intrigued.

What American manufacturer of women’s clothing filmed the entirety of JFK’s Dallas motorcade, creating the most complete historical record of the event?

Easy one. We write Zapruder and bid the maximum. With this answer, our teammate Maureen immediately guesses that the theme will be the answers in reverse alphabetical order.

Which baseball player won 3 MVP awards and appeared in 14 World Series contests?

Everyone on the team looks at me, as I’m the baseball guy (they seem to forget that I’m on a streak of like 7 wrong in a row). Music expert The Megger notices that Joel is playing a song called “Catch Us if You Can.” Yogi Berra continues the theme and is the right answer. 2 for 2.

We get the next two questions right and come to the bonus question after the first round:

Name the one-hit wonder put out by each of the following artists: The Buggles, Church, Chumbawumba, and Fountains of Wayne.

The Megger loves these questions, and is almost bouncing in her seat with excitement. We quickly jot down “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Under the Milky Way,” “Tub Thumping,” and “Stacy’s Mom,” and notice that they all follow the theme.

It’s a perfect first round, and with 24 points we are tied with one other team – “Years Needed to Recover from the Bush Administration.” On to round 2. We nail the first question in the second round. The second question is:

What 4-word line appears on Edgar Allen Poe’s tombstone in Baltimore, MD?

Everyone again looks at me, maybe because I’m an English major, but it doesn’t come to me right away. I get distracted for a second, but when my attention returns, the team has come up with “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore.” That fits the theme, and it’s right. So far, we’re perfect.

What’s the common word for the medical term “gravidity?”

We all look at Maureen, the nurse, and she tells us that it’s “pregnancy.” Bingo. That calls for more beer.

What Lord Protector of the Commonwealths of England, Scotland, and Ireland was offered the crown by Parliament in 1657, but declined it?

Hmm. This answer should begin with the letter O. Peter leans in and whispers “Oliver Cromwell.” Sounds good to us, and he’s right.

After reading the answer, Joel adds that Cromwell was so hated by the Irish that after his death, the Irish dug him up, hanged him, and then burned him. That, kids, is old school hatred.

What city is home to Vitascope Hall, which was built in 1896 as a 400 seat storefront movie theater; the first in the US?

We puzzle over it, but Dave notices that Joel is playing a song by Dr. John, who he seems to remember is from New Orleans. We take a shot at it, and we’re right. Phew. It’s nice to know the first letter of the answer.

After the second round, we’re still perfect, with 50 points, tied with “Years to Recover from the Bush Administration” and 4 points ahead of the perennial favorite “Weapons of UMass Destruction.”

What legendary animal had the body of a lion, a human head, the tail of a scorpion, and a trumpeting voice?

Sometimes, knowing the first letter of the answer (“M” in this case) doesn’t help. I rack my brain, trying to mentally flip through the Dungeons and Dragons books I read as a child, but to no avail. We flounder, make crazy guesses, had “Minotaur,” (knowing it to be wrong) and eventually turned in “Manx” for the minimum bid. (Note: A manx is a type of cat, according to the Wikipedia).

The answer was “Manticore.” Our streak is broken.

Dating back to 1948, when Fred Gurkey (sp?) painted it on his helmet, which team was the first to put logos on their helmets?

The answer starts with “L.” We immediately think “Lions.” Joel plays a song by Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Dave says, “What about the LA Rams?” I laugh at him and say, “Baseball wasn’t even on the west coast in 1948, I’m sure football wouldn’t be.”

Joel plays the Cake song “Sheep Go to Heaven (Goats Go to Hell).”

Based upon me, and not on the musical clues, we guess Lions. It’s the LA Rams. We resolve to listen to Dave more often. Two wrong in a row.

Who was the first English language writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1907, and who remains the youngest recipient of the award?

Again, I’m an English major and should know this, but Pete and Terry have to come through with Rudyard Kipling because I’m still angry about the previous question. Back on track.

We (specifically, Maureen) then guess correctly that Janeane Garofalo played Paul and Jamie’s grown daughter on the last episode of Mad About You and go to the bonus question.

Give the countries that have the following cities as their capital: Jakarta, Tegucigalpa, Georgetown, Suva.

It is so nice to have the letters to work with. We all know Indonesia, Peter gets Honduras and Guyana (I mean, wow), and my sister Lauri gets Fiji for 20 bonus points.

After three rounds, we have 84 points and trail Years to Recover by 2. On to the final round.

What product’s mascot is named “Elsie?”

Our immediate thought is Borden, but we need something that starts with “E.” We fumble around a bit. Dave then notices that Joel is playing Rolling Stones songs, and making the connection to the album “Sticky Fingers,” suggests Elmer’s Glue.

Brilliant! We write it down, bid the max, and hand the slip to Maureen to take up…but she is stopped by Peter. Peter insists that it’s impossible that Elmer’s mascot name is Elsie. Now, ordinarily we might have ignored Peter, but he actually worked as an adhesives salesman for many years, so his opinion swings weight on this issue.

Joel calls for answers to be brought up, but we try to buy time and have him read the question again. He makes fun of us, but indulges our request. Pressed for time, Maureen crosses out Elmer’s, writes in Peter’s “Evaporated Milk” answer, and changes the bid to the minimum before hustling it up to the impatient Joel.

And the answer is, of course, Elmer’s Glue. Once again, we have ignored Dave, to our peril.
We get back on track, guessing that Debbie Gibson was the youngest woman to write, produce, and perform a hit single (Lauri) and that Cincinnati was the first major league city to host a night game (me…although I check for Dave’s approval first). Peter then redeems himself somewhat by guessing that Tony Blair was the first British Prime Minister to address France’s national assembly (in French, no less).

Going into the last question, we have 102 points, Years Needed has 100, and the ever-dangerous Weapons of UMass Destruction have 97.

Which nation uses the Kwanza as its currency?

This is Joel’s type of question. He loves geography questions, and will often sneak a geography question into a different type of question. He plays a small piece of “Que Sera Sera,” then goes into the “For the Love of Money” (the Apprentice theme).

Starts with A. We deliberate for a while. Someone mentions Afghanistan, but from the name “Kwanza” we figure that it must be an African nation. Hmm. Angola? No one comes up with anything better, so we go with it. Despite some talk of using a lower bid, we go with the max. Go strong or stay home.

We’re right, and we take the prize ($30 gift certificate) with 122 points. Weapons, with less than the maximum number of players, comes in second with 115, and Years to Recover finishes 5th with 98. When announcing our victory, Joel says, “It’s good to have an adhesives man on your team.”

Note: We won the bonus trivia game, too ($35 – we donated it to SteveO, who is running the Boston Marathon for Children’s Hospital Boston. To find out more, or to donate, please go here.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 08 Jan 2009 1 Comment