Thursday, September 29, 2005

Can I get a Red Sox work visa?

What the hell is "Red Sox Nation" anyway?

I have been a Red Sox fan for 27 years. My first vivid Sox memory is of Bucky bleeping Dent hitting the homerun over the green monster in the 1978 playoff game between the Sox and the Yankees. For about 25 years, I was able to share in my memories of Sox heartbreak with other Red Sox fans. And for 25 years, that's what we were, Red Sox fans - no passports or membership cards or opportunistic marketing campaigns needed.

Then about two years ago, every newspaper, every local broadcast, and every radio personality began referring to this "Red Sox Nation" like it was some kind of fully-vested new country with its own system of checks and balances, official embassies and diplomats and a treasury spitting out official "Big Papi" currency - legal tender at all local 7-11s.

The whole Red Sox nation thing has gotten so out of hand that there are now even the ritual acts of the nation - croaking along to bad Neil Diamond songs and Dirty Water, referring to NESN color analyst Jerry Remy as Remdawg, having to put up with the atonal wailings of the Dropkick Murphys. Apparently, there's even a new TV show, "Stories from Red Sox Nation" where teary-eyed oldtimers can reminisce about the times when grandpa's second cousin saw Dom Dimmagio at the local diner.

Lord knows, for the nine innings a night, 162 nights a year the local team is on the field, there are few things I enjoy more than giving them my undivided, or at least only partially divided, attention. The rest of the time - well, I'll let you keep the endless pregame shows, and postgame shows, and post-postgame shows, and whatever else the Sox brass wants to throw at the nation.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fear, loathing, and an incredible need to pee

When gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson killed himself earlier this year, it probably didn't come as much of a shock to friends or fans. Considering the lifelong love of booze, drugs and firearms, it may be more shocking that he made it to the age of 67.

While Thompson's writing had pretty much existed as a pale imitation of itself for the past 30 years, that doesn't take away from what the man accomplished over an incredibly fruitful period of creativity in the late sixties and early seventies. When I first read Thompson when I was a teenager, probably like many teenagers, I was initially taken by the craziness, weirdness and the overall drug-induced madness of it all. Had the good doctor really zoomed across the Nevada desert with a suitcase full of illegal pharmaceuticals alongside his Samoan attorney? Did he really lock himself up in first-class hotel suites with a study supply of grapefruits and Wild Turkey, haphazardly faxing sheets of notebook paper to Rolling Stone in an effort to come close to meeting his deadlines?

If all that Thompson had to offer readers was a prodigious appetite for drugs and bad behavior, there likely wouldn't be too many people around today who would continue to read his books or care about his life. The best of his writing, Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and many of the magazine pieces collected in the Great Shark Hunt, holds up today because Thompson was a man filled with righteous indignation who worked at sharpening his prose like a razor. While he undoubtedly had a large appetite for drugs and whiskey, the Hunter Thompson who appeared in his books was largely a creation of Hunter Thompson the writer.

For the better part of a decade, Thompson consistently hit his target, usually with President Nixon squarely in the bulls-eye. It's probably not a coincidence that his writing started to falter at about the same time that Nixon left office in disgrace. Sure, the drugs had an effect, as did the success of Hunter Thompson the character at the expense of Hunter Thompson the writer.

Sometime around 1988, I went to see Hunter Thompson at the Somerville Theater with Randy and a friend of his from college. I don't remember anything Thompson said that night, which may just be because he was mumbling incoherently and drinking from a pitcher of (presumably) Wild Turkey that was in front of him on the stage. I also remember that he was also 45 minutes late for his appearance, although I wouldn't be surprised if it was stipulated in his contract that he would have to make a late entrance. Most of his appearance consisted of taking questions from hippie-wannabes in the audience. Stupid hippies.

The most memorable part of the evening for me, and this is not necessarily memorable in a good way, is that on the red line to the Somerville Theater, I had the single worst urge I have ever had to urinate. About six stops from the theater, my face was red, legs crossed, and I was bouncing up and down madly. About four stops from the theater, I mentioned to Randy and his friend that I really had to go and that there was no way in hell I was going to make it to our stop. Randy's friend pretty much told me to hold it, cause he wasn't going to be late for the show. Randy's friend was pretty much a four-foot-two little weenie who thought he was a ladies' man and never failed to treat me condescendingly. One stop before the Somerville Theater, I couldn't take it anymore. I told Randy and his little shit of a friend that I was getting off the train and would meet them at the theater. And that was the first, and so far, only time I urinated in the dark of a construction zone of and MBTA station - just like a homeless person!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Monk and Coltrane

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Blue Note Records is releasing a live Thelonious Monk/John Coltrane concert that was recorded at Carnegie Hall in November of 1957. Coltrane played with the Monk Quarter for less than a year in 1957 and the band left behind little recorded material.
According to the Blue Note website, these recordings were made by the Voice of America and went filed away and undiscovered until January of this year. From the early reviews and comments posted on the site, the sound is great and the playing inspired. This concert being discovered and released is a major find, like if it was suddenly discovered that the Beatles secretly snuck out and played some live shows around the time that Sgt. Pepper was recorded and those tapes were just found. Or if someone found a dusty manuscript in an attic of a sequel to Huck Finn that Mark Twain wrote and never showed to anyone.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Molding young minds

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when my career was in a less than ideal place. Some might say it was no place, since whatever full-time job I had at the time hardly qualified as a career. It was at this time I had an idea, born out of frustration, little forethought, and the limited job prospects that are inherently implied when you have a degree in English literature.
I was going to be a high school English teacher, molding young minds, inspiring future generations, pulling in a regular pay check . . .

Thank God that idea never panned out.

First and foremost, being a high school teacher would have required standing in front of and talking to a large group of teenagers everyday. Saying I hate teenagers might be putting it a bit strongly. Individually, perhaps even in small groups, provided they are not too loud and can speak in complete sentences, teenagers can be, well, not delightful so much as say, bearable.

Put a bunch of teenagers together in one place, such as a high school that can hold hundreds of them, and it's a different situation. Teenagers are sullen, or obnoxious, or both at the same time. To be fair, I was never all that fond of large groups of teenagers even when I was one. As I've gotten older and matured, I've found myself more comfortable with adults, whether one on one or in larger settings. Put me near a group of teens, however, and I'm pretty sure I would still feel like a stammering, uncomfortable, awkward doofus.

And I'm sure that a group of sullen, obnoxious teenage students would be just as excited to have a stammering, uncomfortable, awkward doofus of a teacher as the stammering, uncomfortable, awkward doofus of a teacher would be excited by his sullen, obnoxious charges.

So the hatred of teenagers is a big mark in the 'I'm lucky I didn't go there' box. There's also the fact that even if I thought teenagers were as magnificent and splendiforous as sunny days and puppies' wet noses, I don't think I would actually be a very good teacher. I suck at explaining stuff, and the way I have it figured, teaching requires a lot of explaining stuff. If somebody asks me how something works, say a TV or a stereo, and I'll just point to the remote control a lot and mimic the pushing of various buttons until whoever I'm showing gets frustrated and figures it out for themselves. Likewise, I'm also really bad at giving directions on how to get to or from places. To begin with, I hardly ever remember street names, and when I do remember street names, they are usually not the right ones. And counting traffic lights and stop signs? I really don't bother with that. Just figuring out how to get someplace new on my own is a big achievement.

Hatred of teenagers and an inherent lack of being able to explain stuff coherently, I'd think that should be enough to make me happy I stayed out of teaching. Of course, there's also the fact that as a potential English teacher I'm really not all that clear on concepts like proper usage and the parts of speech. True, I am in the writing profession, but it's pretty amazing how far the 'Does it look or sound right?' rule will take you.

So, as we mark the beginning of a new school year, I give a hearty thank you to all those teachers out there excelling in a demanding profession. And we can both be glad that I won't be joining you anytime soon.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Do you cook?

One of my co-workers had a cookbook at work today. After commenting on one of the recipes, I was asked the loaded question.

Do you cook?

Do I cook?

My answer? I'm pretty sure I muttered something vaguely incoherent and shuffled slowly away.

Do I cook?

This question is open to some controversy and a little bit of interpretation. For instance, right now, as I am writing this entry, I am waiting for the charcoal to heat up on our Weber Kettle Grill. Once all the briquettes are warm, I will then "cook" sausages and peppers over the hot flames.

If you ask Carrie, what I am doing now is classified as "grilling" rather than "cooking". Just because she has oodles of cookbooks that she makes fantastic multi-step recipes out of, what I do is relegated to the more pedestrian world of flipping burgers. I can't help it, I like standing in front of a hot grill, spatula at the ready, a cold drink in the other hand. Even then, there are the accusations that I overflip the food on the grill. I know, I've ready all the barbecue cookbook that say that for optimum results, each cut of meat should only be flipped once during its cooking time. But damn, flipping stuff over a hot fire is fun.

Ultimately, I am perfectly happy with my relegation to being a griller rather than a cook. Still, if anyone praises my cooking (thanks, Steve and Ramon), or if I tell someone I cooked dinner after grilling a cut of meat that Carrie prepared some elaborate marinade for, I'll hear about it.

Not all of my food preparation is limited to the grill, however. I am justly famous for my grilled (or toasted) cheese sandwiches. Even Carrie will admit this. At times, I'm convinced the only reason she stays with me is because she couldn't bear to live without my delicately buttered and deliciously crispy grilled cheese sandwiches. I also had a pretty good run at making tuna melts until Carrie perfected a more complicated version that involves celery and carrots diced up in the food processor. This is pretty unfair, since I am not allowed to use the food processor unsupervised. I believe the position of the sharp, whirring blade and the phrase "bleeding out" has come up more than once.

So, do I cook?

Depends on your definition, but if you're hungry, odds are I can start a fire or deep-fry something that will satisfy your appetite.