Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Post

Hi Everybody!

This is the demon that sits on Gary's left shoulder.  Yes, we exist, and yes, I have horns, and my partner on his right shoulder really does have wings and a halo.  Hey - I don't need a halo; they're uncomfortable as hell.  Puts strain on your neck, don't you know. I like my pitchfork anyway.

Anyway, Gary's asleep, the poor dear.  He and I spent most of the day together.  I whispered in his ear for hours today, gave him some good advice that I hope he takes.

Like for one, this weight loss thing, the whole quest, is just absurd.  First of all, there stands a good chance that Gary will die shockingly young; I know he's discussed his poor genes with you guys but let me tell you, it's worse than he lets on.  His blood pressure is high; his body type and his family history make him a poster boy for an incipient heart attack. Plus I remind him often that half of his family has diabetes; the other half died from it already. Har! Har!

So why lose weight?  His father never weighed more than 180 in his life, and he preferred to carry about 150.  And he had three heart attacks before that last one.  Boy, he needed my help that day.  Been helping him ever since, by the way, but that's neither here nor there.

And I keep telling him, his wife couldn't give a shit less; he needs to know that as often as possible. Nobody loves him now; nobody possibly could.

So why fucking bother?  I've been trying to convince him all day that since he knows his life is already nasty and brutish, and it's bound to be short; he should just shut the fuck up and eat a twinkie.  Oh man, sometimes I can describe the taste of one so accurately to him - that inimitable yellow-flavored cake, the arterial spackle that is the creme filling - that we both want to drive to the local Quickie Mart and grab one.

But lest you think that all I do is fill his head with ridiculous notions, I actually provide a valuable service. I tell him that people are conspiring behind his back; that he's being made a fool of in a dozen conversations at any given time; that he's held in disdain by those he thought loved him.  I'm not saying I don't have a fun job, but it's work all the same. This is important stuff.

Hmm.  I think Gary's waking up.  At least, his snoring is getting lighter.  God, that guy could shatter glass.   Hey: I've enjoyed talking to you all, and if you ever need me, don't worry - I'm usually calling the shots these days, so I'll be around.

Yours infernally,
Demon #253723-LL-37625-J
Left Shoulder for Southpaw, Crafty

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cravings are Killing Me

As regular readers of my little chucklefest already know, last year sometime I cut out sugared soda and juice from my diet and lost some weight (and a full pants size).  More recently I decided to be a little more proactive about dropping some weight and have started dropping weight pretty fast. It's all working out about as well as I could reasonably expect.

But now the cravings are starting to set in, and some of them are downright monstrous.  One craving in particular is kicking my ass right now.  While I'm not on a no-carb diet, I have cut way back on them, and eliminated stuff like white flour, high-fructose corn syrup and that sort of nonsense entirely. So right now, and for the last few days, I've been craving...

pancakes.  Oh my Lordy Lord, what I wouldn't give for a big ass stack of flapjacks, perfectly cooked, drowning in maple syrup. Then, maybe, after I was done with that, maybe...

another stack of pancakes.  Then, maybe after that...well, you get the idea.

Listen, I've never been a cake guy; there are sweet things I like but I don't really have a sweet tooth to speak of.  But you take a big pile of pancakes, glistening with wayyy too much syrup, a rivulet of butter floating lazily atop, and that's about as good as life gets.  Keep your fucking cake.

But there are probably not a lot of pancakes in my immediate future.  Every so often I'll grant myself a free day, where I can eat whatever I want, but this coming Sunday is Tootsie's and my anniversary, and we're likely going out to a restaurant where pancakes aren't on the menu.

But one day soon, friends, you're gonna find me face down in a giant plate of pancakes - eating my way to freedom!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Beatles Weekend Song Spotlight: Birthday

Some of my favorite Beatles songs have become so especially loved because of their story, as much as the song itself. "Birthday" is one of those songs. Herewith, in addition to a little background, is its story.

In 1968, the first cracks in the foundation of the Beatles personal and professional relationship started to appear, but the stress that created those cracks started in late 1967, when the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, died of an accidental overdose that August 27th.

Epstein's role in managing the Beatles was significantly reduced since they stopped touring in 1966, but he was still critical to them by keeping the Beatles in a four-person cocoon, addressing every non-musical concern they had and allowing them to float through their careers with no barriers to their creativity.  And though it would come out much later that his dealings with the Beatles' finances were far more mercenary than at first thought, the individual Beatles all respected Epstein and the job he did.

When Epstein died, John's first thought was, "Well, we're fucked now." And they were. Disagreements on their business dealings, the disaster that was Magical Mystery Tour, John's falling in love with Yoko - all these elements put stress on the relationships between all of them, especially John and Paul.

So when they got back in the studio for the recording sessions that would produce 1968's double-album The Beatles (also known as The White Album), everything was tense. John insisted Yoko be right there in the studio. Worse, there was no real musical collaboration taking place - as John would later say, "[those sessions] were me and a backing band, Paul and a backing band, George and a backing band." Everyone was walking on eggshells and still getting on each other's nerves.  Especially galling was that Yoko would interject her opinion on the music the Beatles were making; that really pissed off Paul and George.

One day during the sessions, John and Paul found out that the BBC was going to be broadcasting The Girl Can't Help It on TV for the first time later that week. They had a few laughs remembering seeing the movie in the theatre years ago and decided that when the time came, they would bug out of the studio and head over to Paul's house to watch it.

But they didn't want to waste a whole day of studio time, so the day the movie was to be broadcast, September 18, they went into the studio by themselves early in the day (they were accustomed to recording at night) and hammered out a tune like the old days, just sitting with their guitars in their laps and getting it done. They had most of the song's structure worked out by the time they left for Paul's house to watch the flick.

After the movie was over, all four of them met back in the studio and added vocals, a second guitar part, handclaps, etc. Whereas the Beatles usually were quite methodical in their recording, and individual songs could take months, this song, "Birthday," was done in about 18 hours altogether.

I think it's a nice story on a bunch of levels.  First, amidst a swirl of negative emotions ranging from tension to downright animosity, John and Paul dropped any petty bullshit because a flick they wanted to see was coming on TV.  Second, they went in the studio and co-wrote - truly collaborated on - a track for the album, working together for the first time in a long time (indeed, "Birthday" was the only song on the entire White Album that was actually co-written by John and Paul), and coming out with a really good song on the other side.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I would like to think that John and Paul remembered that they were still friends that day.

So yeah, even though I like the song - it's a nice bluesy vamp in E, a great song and easy to play besides - it's one of my favorites because of its backstory.

And there's also this: I mentioned that in 18 hours they finished the song. They started on the afternoon of September 18th, and they had a completed mono mix at about 4:30AM the following day, September 19, 1968 - thus completing the song "Birthday" on the very day I was born.

So there you go - let me know if you enjoyed this and if I should do more of these from time to time.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Of Fire and Prime, and Other Matters of Little Consequence

Busy day, relatively speaking, for The Kid today. Actually a busy 48 hours, which is even more noteworthy given the fact that the normal pace of my life is so slow that the untrained eye perceives it as going backwards. But the rumors are true: I actually left the house two days running.  Huzzah!

Wednesday found me at the VJ's for an evening of poker and conviviality.  Always a lot of laughs.  Came in 2nd in one tournament and was maybe the bubble for the second one (Jo, do you remember?). Either way, I was down $5 for the night but as always it's a small price to pay for that kind of entertainment value.

I have to admit that heads-up, Josie kinda has my number.  Her style heads-up is almost unrelentingly aggressive and I like to play a more patient game one on one, and that's a bad combination. I like to see flops, and her style makes me pay for them.  You know, it strikes me that I shouldn't really be talking about her play; I don't think I'd like that if someone did that to me, so we'll skip the details and just say that she wins heads-up with me all the time - really, like 70-30; she just kills me.

And regarding luck, the only ugly-ish suckout went in my favor, against you-know-who in fact, when my decidedly-worse hand earned a tie on the river, via some two-pair ace high boogaloo.  She beat me fair and square.  I know! I'm as surprised as you are.

But my god, it's just so much fun.  Except for this:  Noodles brought over some Bazooka gum; he always has it for some reason.  None of us could read the comics! Not a one of us.  In the last 6-12 months, we have all lost our ability to read small print, despite that the age differential between us all is eight years! Only one of us had our reading glasses with us and we had to pass it around desperately like it was a pot pipe made out of a can of Tab. Yeah, that's right - Tab.  Kids, look it up.

Anyway, that was my Wednesday.  Today I ventured forth to see an old friend of mine, M. He lives in the middle of New Hampshire. Kind of a schlep from hither to yon, but it's always a good time when we can sit down and have a good conversation. He and I can sit down and discuss anything from politics to woodworking to quantum theory, and fill the hours with lively, funny, satisfying conversation.  It's a lot of fun.

M was diagnosed with a relapsing-remitting course of MS here about 12 years ago, and his life is a more or less constant struggle with his own body.  So his life circle is even smaller than mine is, which is why I'm always the one doing the driving. Which is fine; it's a Mitzvah. The driving bit, that is; the visit obviously is its own reward.

So: Mama Frisbee's baby boy Crafty is tired this evening.  Probably be an early one, meaning I'll prolly turn in around 3.  Tell you what:  if/when I re-integrate into society I'll miss being a nocturne.  It just suits me so damn well.


Before I forget I wanted to mention something to everyone out there who owns a Kindle Fire or who is considering buying one:  Amazon has this thing called Amazon Prime.  I've been a member of it since before I had a Kindle.  If you buy a fair amount of books and stuff from them it's a pretty good deal: for $79 per year, everything you buy that is stocked in an Amazon warehouse gets shipped to you free 2nd-day air, with an option for overnight shipping for $4, which includes Saturday delivery if need be. For Tootsie and me, who did most of our on-line (non-clothing) shopping there, it was an easy decision.

BUT- with a Kindle Fire, it goes from easy decision to an absolute steal.  If your account has Amazon Prime, you get access to thousands upon thousands of videos, both movies and television shows.  And the depth and breadth of content is staggering: I search for something and it's almost always - like 80% of the time - available free because I am a member of Amazon Prime. Some actual stuff I've watched because it was free:

* Every episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus (actually I'm up to most of the way through season 3, episode "Dennis Moore")

* Great movies from my adolescence and youth: The Big Red One (one of the best World War II movies ever made and Lee Marvin's final major role); Caddyshack; Time Bandits.

* Delirously stupid comedies that are so close to my heart: Mars Attacks!; Dumb and Dumber; Ace Ventura, Pet Detective

* Comedy specials of Whitney Cummings, Louis C.K., Daniel Tosh, Zack Galifinaikis

Every bit of this free of charge. Next on my list is Good Night and Good Luck, the Edward R. Murrow story.  Seriously: if you have a Kindle Fire, go to and check out the list of available content.  It'll make your head spin. And don't forget, you still get free 2nd day shipping on everything they send you!

Anyway, there you go.  Fair Warning: I feel a Beatles post coming up in the future.  Finally, I'll close with a joke: What's the difference between a boa constrictor and a Jewish mother?  Eventually the boa will let go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Uplifting? I'll give you uplifting...

So some dude here in Shangri-La challenged those of his readers who are also bloggers to write something with an "uplifting" quality to it.  So I figure I either write a bra commercial (uplifting - get it? Wokka wokka wokka!) or search the ol' noodle for something uplifting that I can share with you.

For something genuinely uplifting, something that will give you confidence in the generation coming up after us, click here for my best day at Fenway Park ever.

But for those of you who appreciate the multiple and nuanced meanings of the word "uplifting," I thought I'd tell the tale of the day I lost my virginity.  Buckle in, kids!

It was October 23, 1983. I was 15 years, one month and four days old. She was 17, but her birthday has long since been forgotten by me, if indeed I ever knew it.

Let's call her M. M was a girl of limited physical beauty, which she made up for by having a giant set of tits and a somewhat cavalier attitude towards who she would show them to. Bizarrely she had dated my oldest brother a few times but had long since moved on - the phrase "long since," of course, being relative to the fact that all parties in this story weren't yet 18.

She came up to me at lunch the first week of school and before she could dig in to her scrambled hamburger, she suggested I tell my brother to go fuck himself. Not being a fan of him at the time, I told her it would be an easy message to deliver.

Well we got to talking, became friends, snuck a few kisses on her, threw up spectacularly all over her, and before too long went by she was only my second girlfriend, but the first one I suspected would give it up if I asked her just right.

And friends, how right I was. I call no woman who likes sex a whore; a female shouldn't be criticized or ostracized for liking sex as much as men do. So it's just a statement of fact: she knew just what it felt like and liked it - and didn't mind getting a little dirty in the bargain.

But being teenagers, and not imbued with an excess of money, we did what we could to garner some privacy in a public world. We would go to a movie and neck throughout the whole thing; I'd have her half-undressed and moaning - literally moaning - in a movie theatre, to the amusement and/or bemusement of the theatre-going public. To this day, even though I paid good money to see "Firestarter," I have no idea what it's about except that there was a lot of fire, and when there's fire on the screen the seats are lit up rather embarrassingly well.

We finally got our chance when M got a job babysitting about a mile or two from my house, so I could hop on my bike and go see her. By this time the prospect of getting it wet was heavy in the air; in either naive optimism or the intelligent pragmatism for which Jews are rightly famous, I had already purchased a box of condoms. Mind you, this was before AIDS made buying rubbers an everyday event; there was still a large element of cloak-and-dagger to buying a box of safes back then. Anyway, one fine afternoon I get a call from M: she's "up the hill," would I care to come over?

Hmmm... let me thinkYES. I grabbed a condom from my secret hiding place and put it in my wallet, along with a prayer. I pedaled as fast as my fat little legs could carry me.

Soon enough, the kid was being completely ignored and we were fooling around in the family room.  With a come-hither stare, M guides me into the bedroom. This was happening.

We get on the bed and pretty soon things are serious.  After using various of her garments as hats, it was time.  I retrieved the condom from my pants pocket, now on the floor, and put it on. And before I could even pause to consider my luck in this situation, I was actually losing my virginity, performing some 15-year-old version of coitus, of which the most charitable thing that could be said was that it was rhythmic, to a point.

Well, I guess my punishment for not considering my luck was that right in the middle of things, and I mean RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS, the phone rings! I thought that my afternoon of fun was over, and would I be able to legitimately lay claim to having lost my virginity when there was no, er, completion?

But at the last minute, the god of 15-year-old boys, Deflowerus, decided to take pity on me.  It was the neighbor across the street; did the little kneebiter M was watching want to go across the street and do some damn thing or other?

Hmmm... let me thinkYES.

So it was maybe five minutes for M to get dressed, get the kid's coat on, walk him across the street, and come back to bed - during which time...

During which time...

Look, you have to remember: This was the first time for me.  It was a VERY BIG DEAL. Also that I had only one condom with me.  So for the time my coitus was interruptus, I had to keep the rubber on, making my unit none too comfortable - and kinda itchy too. However it's amazing how much gets forgotten when the pussy is imminent. She jumps back into bed, purrs "where were we" at me, and we were neck-deep in it within seconds.

And let me tell you, that was the most glorious 80 seconds of my life to that point. A propos of nothing, for those of you who have yet to experience it, can I recommend it?  Sex is AWESOME!

Anyway, so there it is.  Lots of firsts THAT day, I can tell you.  And I can honestly state that for me, that day was uplifting on many, many levels.

Grrouchie: does that qualify as uplifting?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

One More Thing...

...I know you didn't know them, but in case you're looking to increase your charitable donations, or were moved by John's tale, or for whatever reason, there's a scholarship fund set up for the two hardest-hit victims of this horrible tragedy.

Spend ten bucks, or twenty bucks, or five bucks, or whatever, and five minutes to put a check in an envelope, and mail it to:

The Emily and Jack Cronin Scholarship Fund
c/o Bank of America
20 Walkers Brook Drive
Reading, MA 01867

If you would like to make an anonymous donation, contact me via email and we can discuss the particulars.

My Heart Is Broken

You'll have to forgive me if this post is a little disjointed; it will likely be full of half-formed thoughts and might be tough to read.

One of my oldest friends is named John.  I knew him from the time I was about 20 or so, and I'm 43 now. He's the kind of guy who does things for his friends because that's what friends do; for example when Josie's front steps needed to be fixed, he swooped in with some PT lumber and a nail gun and made her a new set of steps in about 20 minutes.  He drove from the North Shore of Boston to suburban Providence, RI, so he could personally inspect a house I was considering buying - the very house I'm sitting in right now in fact.

When I met John he was still going out with his high school sweetheart (let's call her S.), notwithstanding the fact that he'd been through high school and college.  When anyone would ask when he would marry her, his standard joke would be to respond "May.  As in, 'may the day never come.'"

But the day did finally come, and John eventually asked his girlfriend to be his wife, and she agreed, with shining eyes and an optimism for the future.

I was privileged to attend his wedding.  John and I were charter members of the poker game that is currently being hosted by the Very Josies, so John and S. sat all the poker peeps together at the same table.  Somewhere - I've been looking for it all night - is a picture of all of us with a hand of cards, each of us in our Sunday best, looking at the other's hand. It was a funny scene that required us to break out a deck of cards at a wedding reception, to the consternation of the other attendees.

After the wedding, the two of them set about the business of starting and raising a family.  It was not an easy thing, based on some health issues that S. had, but they eventually had a daughter, E., and a son, J., shortly thereafter. And being a husband, and now a dad, John dropped quietly out of poker night, and though I spoke to him somewhat infrequently after that, I still considered him a close friend.

Shortly after J. was born, S. was diagnosed with leukemia. 

She went through a round of chemo, had a stem cell transplant that failed to eradicate the leukemia from her body, had to endure a second round of chemo, and fought a case of pneumonia so severe that they had to place her in a medically-induced coma to give her exhausted body a chance of fighting off the infection.

It was a gallant fight from which she never backed down, but not two hours ago I discovered that some little while ago, S. lost her fight, and died. 

And right now my head is swimming with emotion, for John, who I don't think ever loved anyone else in his entire life; for their daughter who will miss her mommy for the rest of her days; and for their son who is too young to remember his mother except perhaps as a far-off memory of his first grief.

It makes my complaining about mall walkers and Jay Leno seem petty and small, and it makes my heart heavy.

S. and I shared a running joke - we both fancied ourselves masters of the Scrabble board, and we threatened each other with the pasting of a lifetime that we both believed we could administer.  But we never quite got around to it. 

I'll miss her - but in truth, my heart is heaviest for those who are left behind. It's very sad, and I feel like my heart might just break in pieces.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."  - SBA

Friday, February 17, 2012

Be Nice to Josie Today

"I knew this was going to happen, but I was hoping not today."
-John Mellencamp, et. al.

It's the end of an era in the history of Boston sports, my friends. One of baseball's most durable pitchers, the rubber-armed Tim Wakefield, one of only a handful of pitchers to notch 200 victories in his career, announced today that he would be retiring from baseball and from the team for whom most of those wins were notched, the Boston Red Sox.

Wakefield started his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who, displaying the incredible baseball acumen that led to a million straight losing seasons, waived him.  The Red Sox picked him up in 1993 and his first full season with the team he went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA. His career was officially off and running with the red and white.

He was a starter, a closer, a reliever, and probably a team mascot somewhere in there as well.  He is one of a precious few players to have won rings in the 2004 and 2007 campaigns, both of which were marked with personal sacrifice; in 2004 he volunteered for mopup duty in the 19-8 pasting in game 3 of the ALCS so that he could save the arms of the rest of the 'pen (and in so doing gave up a start in the series), and in 2007 he took himself out of the rotation because his back was bothering him and he knew that he couldn't give it his all.

Most importantly, he was Josie's favorite current player, and she is absolutely devastated by this news.  Well, maybe not completely devastated.  Well, maybe not devastated at all.  Maybe her exact words were "He's old and he retired. Get over it."  Or maybe it was just a brave front because she was afraid to show her real feelings, lest anyone think she's really a female. I don't know. But I suspect that down deep, she's hurting today, so be nice to her if you can.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I'm in a Bad Mood...

so leave me alone!

Ever have one of those days where everything anyone says just goes up your ass sideways?  Where the most benign interaction generates molten hatred inside that black, sooty, burnt-out chamber that used to hold your heart?

Yeah. For me, that's TODAY.

It's nothing any of you did; I still hold you all in the same esteem as I held you yesterday at this time.  But unfortunately, as I currently hate everyone and everything on this stinking carrion-crawling shithole of a planet, and you all (presumably) are denizens of said planet, I suppose you've all caught some residual evil; some friendly-fire hatred, if you will.  Sorry about that.

I think you all know me well enough to know that I do not wish to spew my purulent, caustic streams of ill will towards any of you; but just to be clear, I will clarify exactly where reside the chief recipients of my white-hot invective-laden rage.

* People who cut you off getting on a main street and then go 14 mph for the entire way
* Mall Walkers
* People who comment on a hand in progress that they're not in
* Obnoxious drunks
* Any religious organization that proselytizes door-to-door
* Jay Fucking Leno
* People who call you "sir" just to be patronizing and/or smugly demonstrative of their hatred of you
* Anyone who, upon hearing that I'm originally from Boston, say "So do you paaaaahk the caaaaahh?" and smile like they were the very first people to have ever used that tired old bromide, and expect it to be funny.
* That little punk prick who stole my brand-new navigator out of my car last Christmas.  I haven't forgotten you, you little shitbird.
* The New York Yankees and its fans.

Mind you, this is just a partial list.  If you're in any way concerned that I might hate you even though you don't fit any of the above descriptions, you're probably right.

So: enjoy the searing heat of my vicious anger.  I've certainly enjoyed doing the hating.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How It All Began

So I first left home when I was 18 - my overdeveloped sense of independence needed to be indulged, so I moved away into a single unheated room, in a house whose electrical system was so delicate that I could not use a space heater without blowing a fuse. But I could smoke pot in my room - not like I could afford it now that I was paying rent - so it was all good for me.

But then my Dad had a heart attack, so I moved back to help out a bit and to live for two years rent-free. And it was then that, for the very first time, I gained some perspective on my mother, and exactly what flavor of bent she was.

She was emptying the dishwasher one day when I walked in to the kitchen. I was forced to do a quick double-take:  I thought I saw her take a frisbee out of the dishwasher. I looked away, looked back again, shook my head to get out any cobwebs that may have been there, but there it was: an actual frisbee being put away with the rest of the dishes.

"  What's with"

"Oh," she says without a hint of shame, "I like to use it as a serving plate.  High sides - nothing falls out."  And sure enough, our overcooked pork chops were served that evening off of a white frisbee.  It should be noted that in fact no pork chops fell out.

As it turns out, that was only the barest tip of the iceberg of crazy that is my mother. She obviously cares little for social convention; anyone who does would not, I should think, serve food on an old frisbee.  And not even a Frisbee brand flying disc - this had been a generic giveaway from the local grocery store some years previous, that being white, showed a grass stain or two from its days as a FUCKING FRISBEE.

She combines that particular quirk with an inability to cook so staggering that under other circumstances it would be tragic; as it it's just hysterical.  For my entire life at home, my vegetables came out of a can, my potatoes came out of a box, and my meat (tee hee) was overcooked to within an inch of its life. And it's not just that she grew tired of feeding us day after day; even special occasions were worthy of no better treatment.  Thanksgiving had for years been the responsibility of my Aunt, my Mom's sister, and all Mom had to do was supply the mashed potatoes. Rather than boil and peel perhaps 20 potatoes, she actually went with potato flakes.  For Thanksgiving!!

She shows a remarkable lack of knowledge on how food works.  In late 2000 I got a job that had me relocate back home, and I stayed with my folks for four gorgeous months while Tootsie closed up the house in Ohio.  I was 31 at the time, married for six years, and living back at the parents' house was about two steps removed from torture.  Anyway, I told my Mom that there was a jar of mangos in the fridge whose topmost mango had a big round dot of mold on it, perhaps the size of a quarter, and that I was going to be throwing it out.  My mother actually stopped me from doing this, saying "no, you just scrape the moldy part off; the rest is fine."

"Ma, it's not hard cheese, for chrissake, it's fruit in syrup.  Throw it away."

Nonsense, the look she gave me said.  She opened the jar, scraped the mold off the mango, and I swear to Buddha, popped that mango in her mouth like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Three seconds later, she spit the mango into the sink, followed almost immediately by the contents of her stomach into the same sink.  I raised my hand and said "Who here saw exactly what was coming?"

For years, when I'd convey to Toots that we were invited to dinner at their house, she'd say something like "Oh, I think we're busy that day moldy mangos..." And there was nothing else I could say; the conversation was justifiably closed.

There is not enough space here on this forum to give you an accurate picture of the gastric injustices she foisted upon me, especially in the four months that I was under her roof in 2000.  At that point I understood how food was supposed to taste, how one is supposed to cook meat, what freshly cooked vegetables tasted like, and how food is best when actually served the day it is cooked.

She said many things that immediately turned me crestfallen.  One day I called her and let her know not to hold up dinner for me, that I was going out with some friends. "Oh, hell," she said, "I've been defrosting a roasting chicken all day.  Honey!!" she called out to my dad. "Put that chicken back in the freezer, will you?"

Crest: fallen.  I was going to have to eat that twice-frozen death bird, and the worst part of it was that I wouldn't know when.

One day I came home to find a beautiful lamb roast sitting on the counter, resting. It glistened with juices.  The outside was seasoned with Rosemary and Thyme - I could see one and smell the other - and it looked like, for a miracle, it was cooked to perfection.  I took a knife out of the drawer to get a preview, salivating at the prospect of a good meal for a change.

"Don't touch the roast!" I hear from her little den.  "It's for tomorrow!"

Crest: fallen. It was a real question as to whether I should just put the knife away or run it over my wrists.

More later. You have to be helped in to this level of crazy, don't you?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tonight's Tourney - My Long Journey

If life were a Venn diagram, and you occupied the nail-thin sliver of Union between "Those who were interested in tonight's re-inaugural Very Josie" and "Those who did not play in tonight's re-inaugural Very Josie," I daresay you could find sufficient recounts of it by more successful runners than Your Obedient Servant. More entertaining, too, I'd warrant; nothing particularly noteworthy happened to me, with the sole exception of having my pocket 10s being sucked out on majestically by Grrouchie, who would eventually place, with 24o. Yep - I got Grumped, right in the ass. And to further add to the shame, none other than Poker Grump himself was actually sitting at the very table, making this an epic Grump, a 'Babe-Ruth-Pointing-His-Home-Run' once in a generation moment.

However majestic the moment, however, the cold reality that I lost a big chunk of my chips started to set in. And right around then, this was perhaps ten hands into the final table, I came down card dead. Stack creeps down down down, blinds soar up up up. Meet the new Very Josie; same as the old Very Josie. Went in with maybe 7 or 8 blinds left with double paint, got crushed by AA which held up stoically, and that was the story of me. Finished 6th in a field of 12 - the very definition of poker mediocrity.

Be that as it may, congrats to the winners, thanks Auntie Jo for the hosting duties (hee hee - duties) and look forward to the next one.


Here's something, but it needs a bit of mildly embarrassing background first.

See, here's the thing: I've been overweight just about my entire life. Even as I child, though I wasn't one of those modern-day aberrations, almost perfectly round, forged by 6 pounds of sugar a day and three different video game systems; I was an outside kid, like all of us back then, but I had a roll above my belt for which I caught a lot of shit.

Fat kid grew up to be fat man. Weight blossomed to a high of 285-ish. 46 inch waist vs. a 30 inch inseam. Used sentence fragments. One after another after another. Cool quirky literary device at first. Tiresome and obnoxious after. Overuse.

I discovered the Atkins diet and lost 75 pounds, settling there for two full years. I think my fighting weight was 206. I lost just a hair under ten inches around my waist and a full inch and a half off my neck.

After I got off Atkins I gained back perhaps 10 pounds and stayed there more or less for yet another year. But even not being on the Atkins diet, there were still elements of it that colored my daily choices: juice, for example, would never touch my lips again. Similarly did I realize that sugared soda was one of the worst substances you can ingest into your body. And for some reason I remember quite vividly that if I start drinking sugared soda, I've ceased caring utterly about my food choices and it's time to stop the party and have some discipline.

Well, fast-forward quitting smoking, and ten years of slow weight gain, and some time last year I found myself once again wearing size 46 pants and 4X shirts and such. I realized that I was once again drinking sugared soda and knew that something had to be done.

So just to start off I guess, and to get the easy stuff out of the way, I just stopped drinking sugared soda. And would you believe that just by doing that one thing I lost more than 20 friggin' pounds! With just about no effort whatsoever I dropped a full pants size and that made me pretty happy.

So there I stayed, about 20 pounds under my heaviest weight and not really travelling much up or down over a few months. Then, here maybe two weeks ago, I made another pretty small tweak to my choices (no more refined flour or sugar, pretty much cutting out simple carbs in giant quantities, like a giant grocery store muffin or a heaping plate of white spaghetti) and damned if I didn't drop another entire pants size! I'm a comfortable 42 waist and judging from where I am mentally I think that I could get down another pants size, maybe even two, before my motivation starts to cool.

I think that the total amount of weight I've lost thus far is maybe 35 pounds, maybe a little more. I could easily hit 50 pounds gone without too much effort. I tell you what - that will be a REALLY good day for me.

Over and above the cosmetic benefits of losing weight, it's just a fact that as you get older your body becomes less tolerant of extra weight. Think about it: how many fat old men do you know? That's a thought that takes root sometimes. Believe it. So yeah, for all those reasons and more, the day I lose 50 pounds, I'm letting the world know.

Oh, and regarding the Crafty and Skinny Southpaw: I have pictures, haters. I have pictures.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Distributing Some Link Love

So looking over the list of blogs to whom I link I realized that there are some blogs to whom I should be showing the love, and don't; my apologies to those types. Also a few new friends here whose blogs I've been enjoying; they get the love too. Forthwith then a shoutout and a promise that the link love will flow:

* DuggleBogey. How did I miss this? Always a good read.

* JT88Keys. A self-described computer guy, he augments his pile by doing music stuff. And, as a sofa guitarist, making money by making music automatically makes you cool and me jealous.

* The Poker Grump. A shocking omission on my part. Dude, I've been reading you for years. Your analysis is particularly helpful to me.

* The Neophyte. Like Grump, you've been a regular read for a long time. Sorry for the oversight.

I think that's it. Watch for the links to come up soon. Reciprocal love appreciated but not necessary.

Watch this space for a late-night post describing the action at the re-launched Very Josie, who but for my ineptitude with software-based drawing tools would have a cool new logo right about now.

For Lucki Duck

Lucki Duck found a sample Wonderlic test to take online. In his honor we'll call it the Wonderduck Test. Here's my result:

Quiz Concept by Nicholas Creative

Read the original article here. And bear in mind I'm not 100% certain that being told that I'm smarter than Eli Manning means much. The phrase "King of the Dipshits" springs to mind.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend This -n- That

Before anything else, wanted to mention that a fellow blogger inside the circle is going through some trials, some tribulation, some weeping, some wailing, and some gnashing of teeth. Most of you know who I'm talking about and those who don't, well, it's probably better for you ;) Anyways, hope everything works out for you, man. I really do.

Notwithstanding that, there's mostly good news in this post, and that's not a phrase I've been able to say a lot recently.

Firstly, poker: Lately I've been playing more Double or Nothings on BCP, usually in the $10/20 range. The low ranges are just too random for my tastes and there's not quite enough action to make it worth my while.

I think DoN's fit the strong points in my game and avoid the weaker: I think my shorthanded game needs some real work so being able to avoid it is pretty cool, at least in the short term. DoN's also tend to reward ABC poker, with perhaps a nod towards more patient play than you otherwise would. It's almost like playing at the bubble for an entire game. BTW I'm not suggesting that my brand of play is often described in terms of patience but I can play quite patiently if I'm convinced that that's the way to go.

The single most important thing to remember about DoN is that you don't need to win; just don't lose. It is to some counter-intuitive but if you can vibe to that philosophy it becomes an easy game. So I think I'll be playing DoN's with regularity.

One hand I wanted to mention was, I think, the direct result of my respect for, and gratitude towards, the poker gods.

Early on, blindss 10/20, as UTG+1 I looked down to find pocket 8s. UTG folded, I raised to 60, it folded down to the SB who called. The flop came 8JJ. I flopped a big, beautiful boat, and although I didn't have it stone cold - I was vulnerable to JJ and J8 - it's safe to say I liked my chances. I checked the flop and he checked behind.

Turn comes a 10. Now I'm also vulnerable to J10. Villain bets 140, which is about a pot-sized bet. I call.

The river, if you can dig it, showed me the case 8. I was staring at a beautiful set of quads. Woo, and might I add, hoo. Now I had the second nuts, vulnerable only to JJ. Villain insta-shoves and of course I have no real alternative but to call. In fact it's kind of bad form to do any thinking there; anything but an insta-call would almost certainly be construed as a slowroll. And if indeed he has JJ, Buddha bless him; he'll have earned my chips fair and square.

He turns over AJ - that river 8 that gave me quads gave him Jacks full of eights. I watched with glee as the chips danced their way into my pile (virtually speaking). My opponent was crippled but later chipped back up off of someone else's tuckus, and my monster stack was easily enough to glide me through to victory, as victory is reckoned in DoN land. So: to the gods of poker, once again, please accept my thanks and supplication for your gentle mercy. I will not forget your awesomeness.

Speaking of poker, congratulations to my sistah from anothah mistah for scoring yet another pile at Foxwoods recently. Awesome job Auntie Jo! And thanks to Hoy for taking good care of her and providing her with good advice and counsel.

One other matter that I'll call good news: I got my heating oil bill today (For those of you not familiar with the Northeastern United States, most houses here are heated with #4 fuel oil, delivered into a 250-gallon tank by a fleet of trucks). Last month I got a bill that covered 33 days of fuel, that set me back - gulp! - $608. SIX HUNDRED BUCKS!! That's for one month of heat. Holy shit, thought I. This can't be allowed to continue.

So we turned down the thermostat to 58, threw on sweaters, bought a little space heater, and saved ourselves about $200 this past month. We actually used almost a full gallon less fuel per day in a month that was way colder than the one previous (and at $4.60/gallon, that ain't hay). I'll call that good news; hells yeah I will.

So I guess that's it. I'll close with a joke you can tell a kid: Guy walks in to a podiatrist's office. Says "Doc, you gotta help me; I think I'm a moth."

Doctor says "but...I'm a podiatrist. Why are you coming to me?"

Guy says "well, your light was on."

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Defense of the Cat; or, Me and Grrouchie are Fighting

So yesterday Josie mentioned that she had a chance to take in a dog who needed a home (BTW, before we go any further: anyone able to take in a chihuahua? Leave a comment, I'll leave it private if you wish). Well, she's much more a cat person than a dog person, so that's a no-go, but like every small detail of her life that she sees fit to make public, the floodgates of comment opened up and everybody and their Aunt Fanny* had an opinion on the matter.

Including a new-ish pal of mine, Grrouchie. He likes dogs but thinks that cats are the Devil's own spawn, and dem's fightin' woids here in the realm of the Crafty Southpaw.

How, he asks, could one appreciate a pet that is independent, that doesn't protect the house, that at times will put its own self-interest before yours?

My response, after a string of expletives that would embarrass a sailor, is this: How can you not? I think it's cool as hell that the cat is an animal who thinks for itself, who will not come at call if it has something better to do. And by the way, it's not like I've never been dissed by cat, but in the time since I left my parents' house, I've been the happy companion of Berk and Buster, of Sarsaparilla and Bailey, of Romeo, and the current brood of Maya, Rusty, and Pearl, who loves me more than life itself, and not one of them would ignore me if I called them. Not out of fear of violence or withholding food or anything else, but simply the love that a pet has for their humans. So this notion of cats ignoring you is largely jive.

As a matter of fact, right this very second, as I sit on the couch typing this, Pearl is lying beside me, and purrs like ten cats when my hand strays to her and I start absently petting her side or stomach.

They know when I've had a day and I could use a little kitty attention. They know when it's best to stay the hell away from me. They keep themselves cleaner than dogs do (or can). They can be left home for days at a time, provided you keep their bowls full. The Grrouchy one says that having a cat is like having a teenager. That may be so, but having a dog is like having a drunken toddler with a tail.

A dog will eat until he sicks up the contents of his stomach, and then will start in on his own sick. A dog will lick the hand that beats it and keeps it outside during the Winter. That's not love, that's Stockholm syndrome.

Now I don't want this to become a polemic against dogs; I like dogs. There are times I wish I had one, maybe a golden retriever or a Rotty (the single most misunderstood breed in the canine universe), but Toots feels the same way Josie does about dogs (and about me; they both fucking hate me, but no matter, no matter). But cats are quiet, they are fun, they are clean, and they develop bonds with humans that are as strong as steel. Cats are an absolutely necessary element of any household I live in, and will be so until the shadows come.

Grrouchie: cats rock. Sorry you're allergic but hey, I'm allergic to chlorine, that doesn't mean I hate swimming pools. OK, I do hate swimming pools, but you get the picture.

* I actually had an Aunt Fanny; she was one of a very few relatives my Dad had. Towards the end of her life she got a little pooky, and would send me a birthday present four or five times a year. To what extent she though a 10-year old would enjoy a coffee-table book about orange orchards in Israel remains the stuff of mystery; she took the answer to that riddle with her to the other side.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Calling All Conservatives

Something happened yesterday and I want to know if my politics are clouding my judgement here. So all you guys who identify yourselves as conservatives - Duck, KenP, anyone else who disagrees with President Obama's politics - I'd like to know if I'm letting my personal politics get in the way.

Yesterday, I had to go to the Post Office. On the sidewalk near the entrance were a couple of people, a man and a woman, and a number of signs complaining about President Obama. Hey, whatever, it's an election year, and even though they've got an uphill climb in very liberal Rhode Island, everyone has their opinions. The thing that really got to me was that they had a bunch of signs that portrayed President Obama with a Hitler mustache. I lost my shit, literally screaming at them about just how inappropriate it was to put a Hitler mustache on the sitting President of the United States, whoever he is. "You think that's funny? You think that makes a point?" I screamed. "Ask a Jew about that fucking assholes have no idea just how offensive that is!"

Not being exactly in my right mind I failed to mention that Hitler despised the political left; he hated Bolshevism and Communists almost as much as he hated Jews, but that's neither here nor there.

I mentioned fairly recently that I treat officeholders with respect, notwithstanding whether or not I agree with their politics. For example President Bush had the right to call him "Rummy," but I never called him anything but "Secretary Rumsfeld," despite my complete lack of respect for the job he did. It's a lesson I learned from my dad as readers of this little chucklefest might remember. So putting a Hitler mustache on President Obama offends and outrages me on a number of levels, being an American, and being a Jew.

But I'm also a registered Democrat, proud of it, and have every intention of voting that way come November. And that's why I would like the opinion of my friends on the other side of the political spectrum: How offended would you be to see the President of your country, even though you didn't vote for him, being compared to Hitler?

And just in case you needed any information on just how evil Hitler was, consider: everyone knows that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. What you might not know was that the entire Jewish population of Europe was 9 million. Hitler killed 66% of all the Jews as far west as France and as far east as Romania. Today, there are less than 1.2 million Jews in all of Europe. It's a population that might take 20 generations to replenish itself.

And THAT'S the person to whom our President was compared.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In Which I Offer Humble Thanks to the Poker Gods

So this morning early I entered an 18-person tourney on BCP. It was an el-cheapo one, a buck or two to get in; as a rule I don't play for any money to speak of after, say, 2AM or so. First place was 7 or 8 buy-ins, I think.

When Full Tilt was king I played plenty of nickel-dime tourneys like these. The play wasn't great, of course - lots of beginners and idiots in buck-deuce land - but when I wanted to stoke my ego and run through the field like fire it was worth it to play ABC poker and win way, way more than I lost.

But dear God and sonny Jesus, the play in the shallow end of the pool at BCP is the worst I've ever seen. Here's an example: I raised 3X mid-position with AsKs. Guy in seat 2 snaps. Flop comes AA6. I check, he bets small, I call. Turn is K; I bet out about 3/4 of the pot, hoping he catches and doesn't think I had an ace. He calls with almost no thought. Riv is a J. I'm a little nervous now; this was early on in the doings and I hadn't seen his play - plus he was kind of playing like he was on a draw. But would he snap a 3X pre-flop bet, and call my big-ish turn bet with Q10? I thought no, so I bet pretty good, about half of my stack, which was about 2/3 of his. He calls without even thinking - and what do you think he had?


Seriously! Who stays in a hand with two aces on the board, and two other face cards, with a pair of fours!! He loses just about his whole stack with a hand that is guaranteed to be a loser! It was everything I could do to keep my yap shut - and I NEVER gloat on a win, or, Buddha forbid, tell someone he's a fish. Bad business and worse manners. But my God - I damn near doubled up on this guy who was holding a hand that had damn little value pre-flop and precisely zero value post. Think about it: how early in your poker education did you learn the lesson of low pocket pairs? It's not like it's subtle stuff: stick around if you can do so cheaply, fold down if you don't catch. Thirteen words!

I hope that dude either learns how to play poker or gets out of the game. Until then, though, I hope I play him again.

But the reason for the title of this post, and the reason why I offer supplications and thanks to the Bards of the Cards, was this: No fewer than four times during final-table time, I went in with WAY the best of it, got completely schmucked on the flop, and sucked back out on the turn or the riv. AJ vs KJ: he flops a K-high straight, river comes a K to make my A-high straight. JJ vs. 66 - he flops his set, I turn mine. Crushing disappointment turned to relief and/or joy, time after time after time. It was, in a word, remarkable.

At the end of things I was heads-up with a decent enough player, but his deal was that he bet with nothing, and checked when he hit. It didn't cost me too much to find that out, but find out I did. Last hand I had Q2 - he was button and raised. I called, more to send a message than anything else. Flop came JJ2. He bets out. Now I know that he would rather eat a bug than bet a set, so I was pretty sure that my ducks were good. I shove, he calls, and the Crafty Southpaw walks away with a 4AM victory. $14.40 baby!

So thanks to the deities in charge of poker, of all games of skill, and all games of chance. Thanks to the gods of cards, and of luck, and those who steer idiots my way. Hell, thanks to the gods of those dudes' gods. I won't forget your magnificent mercy. This I swear.

An Open Letter to the Dude at the Grocery Store Who Shot Me a Smug Look

Yeah, asshole.  It's a Shamrock Shake. You got a problem with that?

Monday, February 6, 2012

To Get Everyone's Mind Off the SuperBowl

A Little non-Beatles trivia for y'all for a Monday...this time it's Lincoln Lore:

* Something that has been almost completely forgotten in the years since April 13, 1865, when Lincoln was assassinated, was that his killer, John Wilkes Booth, was a wildly popular actor and was, at the time of his action, one of the most recognizable faces in the entire USA.  The shocked words on the lips of every American were not "President Lincoln was shot by some guy named John Wilkes Booth," but a rather more staggering "John Wilkes Booth shot the President!"

* Booth crept up behind the President as he was sitting in the President's box at Ford's Theater, shot him a couple of inches behind the ear with a single-shot Derringer pistol, and jumped down from the box to make his escape.  Unfortunately (or fortunately - remember he was a scumbag) he caught a spur on some bunting and so fell awkwardly, breaking his leg. He still had the presence of mind however to shout "Sic Semper Tyrannis!" (Thus always to tyrants) as he made his escape.

*Booth was in cahoots with two other assassins, George Atzerodt and Lewis Payne.  They were assigned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward, respectively.  Payne managed to stab and wound Seward, but Atzerodt lost his nerve and rather than try to kill Johnson, instead spent the night drinking his face off.

*As he was hiding from the massive manhunt that was on his trail, and trying to cross the Chesapeake to get to the South, where he thought he'd be received as a hero, he ran across a doctor, who, not knowing who he was, set his leg and gave him a crutch.  For his action he was arrested and imprisoned as a co-conspirator in the assassination, and was imprisoned until 1869, when President Andrew Johnson pardoned him.  The doctor's name was Samuel Mudd, and it is because of him that the expression "his name is mud" came to be.

* Booth and his co-conspirator, David Herold, came across a sympathetic ex-Confederate soldier who gave him a newspaper to read.  Reading of the outrage of the nation, including the South, surprised and depressed him, and knowing now that the South would provide no refuge, started making panicky moves and hastened his capture.

* Booth was finally cornered in a tobacco-barn on the property of the Garrett farm.  He was ordered to come out and he refused (though Herold surrendered), so the Union soldiers set the barn ablaze.  Against orders, a soldier, Sergeant Boston Corbett, shot Booth through the slats of the barn, paralyzing him. It was recommended that Corbett be court-martialed, as he was under strict orders to take Booth alive.

*The bullet paralyzed Booth. He was dragged out of the barn and set on the ground.  Shortly before he died he asked that his mother be informed that he "died for [his] country." He asked that his hands be lifted  before his eyes so he could see them.  "Useless...useless," he uttered, and died.

Hope y'all enjoyed this.  If you did, let me know; I'll do another one at some point down the road.  Maybe the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal.

Am I weird?

Sometimes when I'm nervous I...stick my hands in my arms...
...and I smell them.

OK, first of all, congratulations to the New York Giants for winning the Super Bowl this year.  Mazel Tov. 

Now, here's the deal: as some of you know, I give my sports love to the Red Sox and the Bruins (that's Boston, not UCLA), and though I watch NFL football every Sunday, and Monday, and Thursday, and the odd Saturday, I don't really have a deep emotional attachment to the Patriots; never have.  I think the reason is that the Pats got good during the time that I lived in Cleveland, when the Browns and their every day soap opera played out on the front pages. The Browns, after sucking for two suck-filled years under the tutelage of - irony alert - Bill Belichik - packed up and moved to Baltimore, making the Browns' owner, Art Modell, the most hated human being on the planet.  There was plenty of drama there; I didn't need to follow any other team.

Anyway, over the years I've softened that stance just a little bit.  And even though my personal opinion was that the Giants would, in fact, win the game, I wanted the Pats to win enough to ...


To bet against them. Is that weird?

Here's my thinking:  If there's a team I want to win, I want some sort of consolation prize if they lose.  And I have worked this particular hustle since 2004.

In April of that year, I bet my boy Other Dave $200, at 5:1 odds, that the Red Sox would not win the World Series.  Think about that:  When the season STARTED, I gave Dave 5:1 and took THE ENTIRE FIELD, American and National League teams alike, and he took the Red Sox - who, I should remind those outatownahs, hadn't won el enchilada mas grande since 1918, some 86 years previous. It was a good bet.  It was a great bet when the Sawx were down 3-0 in the ALCS. 

After that the bet kind of lost its luster. But here's the thing:  All during both series, when the boys had their backs up against the wall, I maintained my rooting interest, my wager be damned.  I have proof of this: I decided that I should break my tradition and not watch the games in my basement, spinning pool balls into the pockets of my table with my hand exactly three times per pitch, giving the Sox all the Good Jew Juju that they needed, or even wanted. So I spent the evening at none other than Very Josie and her brood, yelling, screaming and jumping about, notwithstanding the fact that Ursa Sucrosum had gone to bed already.

Anyway, the point is, if the Sox lost I had (what I thought was) an easy two hundred squeeds, but if the Red Sox won, why, that was just swell too.   And when the Sox finally won it all ("ground ball by Renteria - stabbed by Foulke - he has it - and the Red Sox are World Champions! Can you believe it?") we screamed, and danced, and hugged, and sat and watched all the post-game piffle with perma-smile and I didn't think of that thousand bucks once. 

And when I handed the moolah over the next day, OD was gracious as was possible, and bought me lunch.  And you know what? That thousand bucks is scattered to the four winds, has been for years - but I still think of that Renteria ground-out and a smile stretches across my face.

In a similar vein I also bet "My Buddy Ken" fifty U.S. dollars against the Boston Bruins when they made the Finals.  Lost that one, too, and cared even less about that one than the big one.

And yes, I bet this guy fifty bucks that the Giants would win, straight-up:
We call him Ass-Chin.  He deserves it.

This is the first time one of these bets has gone my way, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I really wanted the Pats to win, if for no other reason than to stick it in the ear of every Giants fan from here to Glory. Alas, it was not to be, but I'm fifty bucks ahead of things.

I feel like I should buy something with it that offers some source of penance, something that shows that this is kind of dirty money.  My initial idea was heroin, but I'm not sure how much a half a yard will buy me.  So I might just buy ten cases of Mountain Dew Purple and kill my pancreas. I'd love to hear your suggestions, especially insofar as most of you are delightfully fucking bent.  And You-Know-Who: I'm sorry you had to hear this story yet again.

And to Patriot Faithful everywhere:  Just Wait Till Next Year!