Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Ant as Allegory for the Human Condition;
Ruminations Whilst on the Crapper

Before I begin, let's get the smirking and laughing out of the way. Yes, I was sitting on the toilet doing my business. Everyone poops, man. Don't you read? I trust the less said the better on that.

Anyway, as I was enjoying my afternoon constitutional, only slightly bemoaning the fact that there was no reading material to while the lonely minutes away, I caught sight of a single ant, scuttling his way across a piece of floor tile. He obviously was separated from the colony and was trying to intuit his way back - except that once he came across a grout line he stopped, refusing to cross it. So he would backtrack and wander, backtrack and wander, until he came across another (or the same) grout line, which he would not ever cross.

This ant will get exhausted and dehydrated and will ultimately die, because he set boundaries on himself that are completely imagined - not really boundaries at all. His failure was caused by his lack of ability to overcome these self-imposed boundaries.

Sound familiar?

Look, I'm the last guy to give new-agey advice. But this was too perfect an allegory to pass up. I firmly believe that 80% of failure is self-imposed.

People fail to do things for so many reasons, so few of them valid. They might be afraid of what others would think if they were to embark on the grand fulfillment of their secret dream; they might be afraid that grabbing the brass ring is unfair to those who cannot stretch out themselves and dare the attempt.

That ant confined his world to a 6x6 floor tile because of an unfounded fear of a dark line and a change of texture. Looking as I was down on him, omniscient, all-powerful, and quite regular, thank you, I realize the folly of his self-imposed prison, the exile of his own making, but he most assuredly did not. So it is, I suspect, with those of us humans who struggle with the same self-imposed boundaries.

Lift them. Understand that they exist in your head. There is nothing that a motivated human being will not dare or do to further the fulfillment of a dream. And conversely, if you unnecessarily constrict your life because of your own imagined fears or boundaries, is it truly a good decision?

To the daring go the greater rewards. Dare!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Thoughts

From a recent cleaning of the mental attic:

This may sound infantile or embarrassingly idealistic but there are few things in life more rewarding than repaying a kindness, especially if one pays it forward. This year my family and I have been the beneficiaries of a thousand small kindnesses associated with my father's passing. Sadly, one of my dearest friends - dearer than most of my family - went through the same thing recently. I ran a few errands for them and brought over some cold cuts so that they'd have something to eat. No big deal. A simple, small kindness. But I know firsthand the value of a gesture like that and it was my high honor to be able to help when help was needed. I only wish I didn't know what to do, but to go through something like I went through and not learn from it would have been an even greater tragedy. DB, as you embark on your road, always remember that I stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, here for whatever you need.

On to happier topics...

Good on the Red Sox - they didn't make it to the big dance but they came damn close. Now rumors are swirling about Derek Lowe wanting to come back. You know what? I like the idea. The Sox don't need a #1, #2, or #3 starter - they have Beckett, Lester, and Matsuzaka filling those roles. They don't need a #5 - Tim Wakefield and his maddening, fluttering knuckleball fill that bill perfectly and inexpensively. What we need is a #4 guy who is consistently healthy and who will eat up innings. D-Lowe and his sinker would be perfect for Fenway's much-improved infield and would fit the profile of a #4 guy to a tee.

Manny Ramirez went on record as saying he's glad the Sox got eliminated in the playoffs. Hey, Manny (and the media): We get it. You don't like the Sox. This is no longer news. This has all the salaciousness of the Rosie O'Donnell - Donald Trump feud, which is to say, none at all. Drop it already.

Here's a joke you can tell an 8-year-old (which is why I like it so): What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt.

Did you know that most of the principal actors in Hogan's Heroes were Jewish? The men that played Klink, Schultz, LeBeau, Burkhalter, and Hochstetter were all Jewish. And John Banner (Schultz) and Robert Clary (LeBeau) actually spent time in concentration camps! Werner Klemperer, who played the beaurocratic, bumbling, Prussian old-liner Colonel Kink, justified his playing of a German soldier by saying, "I am an actor. I can play Richard III; I can play a Nazi." He had a clause in his contract that stipulated that the Germans would NEVER triumph over Hogan and his men.

Anyone out there have a holistic remedy for insomnia?

I have a low-grade desire to drive the cars of my youth - a '77 Maverick, a '78 Mustang II, and my '89 Mustang, the first new car I ever bought. None of these vehicles distinguished themselves by being good automobiles; but I joyrode in them a fair amount and got laid in them a time or two as well. Good times, good times.

Where and when I grew up, we had two UHF channels: WSBK channel 38 and WLVI channel 56. Saturday mornings after the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show on CBS at 9:30 one channel showed an hour of Three Stooges; the other channel showed Little Rascals. This is why I never watched Little Rascals way back then. I was too busy watching Moe poke Larry.

On the subject of black and white media, the Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson are genius - even the cheesy ones set in the 1940's where Holmes helps fend of the Nazis are pretty hip in their own way.

How on earth could anyone like mushrooms? You know they're nothing but big mold, right? And that they grow in SHIT? Frickin gross.

I suppose that's it for now. Stay cool everybody and remember: do something nice for someone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

700 Buh buh buh...


Is this what it's going to take to right the mighty ship of state? To once again be able to bow before the words "the full faith and credit of the United States of America?" Whose fault is this?

I'll tell you whose fault it is.

IT'S YOUR GODDAMN FAULT. That's right. You. The guy who let some charlatan convince you that you can absorb a $500,000 mortgage on your cell-phone-kiosk-guy salary. The guy who wanted a house so bad that he completely abrogated his financial responsibility. The guy who signed up for an option ARM, knowing that in three years his mortgage payment would be so much higher than his ability to pay that, now that the doody has struck the rotating blades, he just leaves the keys in the door and walks away.

It's tough to blame the banks. They're in it to sell mortgages. They told a happy story that had nothing to do with the truth and many of you idiots out there swallowed it whole.

It's like blaming the banks for the farm crisis in the '80's. Since time out of mind, farmland was about $550 per arable acre. Come, build, farm, live. $550 an acre. Until the banks told them that their land was worth WAY more than that, and loaned them money against land with a phantom value. It's not the bank's fault - it's really not. The farmer who smirked up at the banker and knew in his heart that his land was worth exactly what he knew it to be worth and not a penny more and told him to get the hell off his front porch? THAT guy still has his farm. He didn't lose any damn thing. John Cougar Mellencamp wasn't singing about him on Scarecrow. No, only the stupid ones lost their farms.

It is our responsibility as citizens and consumers in the greatest financial system the world has to maintain a modicum of common sense into the process and recognize a snake-oil salesman when we see him. I'll say it again: LET COMMON SENSE BE YOUR GUIDE. If you've just moved in to a 6 bedroom/4 bath palace in the middle of Happytown, and you spin pizzas for a living, YOU ARE BREAKING THE RULE OF COMMON SENSE.

Buy what you can afford. Do not buy what you can't. Simple advice that, if heeded, would have resulted in the Government not having to bail us all out to the tune of elventy grillion dollars. And by the way: it's not like the Gummint has 700 bill hanging out in a dresser drawer. It has to bond out for that money - essentially to print it - which will further devalue the dollar and contribute to inflation. Bailout or no, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where Were You?

Like most adults, I guess, I was at work. I had a meeting scheduled at 8:30 and after about 20 minutes when nobody showed up I called the meeting's organizer and asked her what the deal was. She said "sorry, I'm just so caught up in this World Trade Center thing," and that is how The Day That Changed Everything first entered my consciousness.

I knew it was big when I couldn't connect to - when their servers are overloaded you know it's a big news day. We heard the same half-truths and non-truths as rumor spread in the first 20 minutes of chaos. Our accountant ran home and brought in a TV and we congregated in a corner conference room and sat, and stood, slackjawed, at the images that unfolded before us.

Images that are seared forever in my memory: a building afire, thick, acrid, ebony-black smoke spewing out of the top third of it. And not just any building - the World Trade Center, for God's sake - gargantuan symbol of, and paean to, commerce, the almighty American Dollar, and by extension our great nation itself.

One of our salespeople was also a local firefighter (find me a fireman without a second job and...and...well it doesn't matter, they ALL have second jobs) and I remember asking him how much time a person had in smoke that thick and hot.

He thought for a moment and said, "One breath - maybe two."

We sat and watched as the attack - for by now we knew that's what it was - went on. The buildings burned; we heard stories of other planes being hijacked; a plane hit the Pentagon. The PENTAGON, for Chrissake. These guys certainly knew their symbolism!

There was confusion within the halls of power - here in Massachusetts various politicians came on to say that a local election was taking place, others said it wasn't. The President was on Air Force One - first here, then there, spiriting President Bush to various points of safety.

They pulled EVERY SINGLE AIRCRAFT out of the sky. Landed them all.

Then after an hour or so of intense heat and metal stress, we watched in abject horror as first one tower then the other succumbed to the indignities foisted upon them, and they fell. Just collapsed like an old Vegas casino. The only difference is, each collapse took place while hundreds of live human beings still occupied the towers. In those several seconds, albeit shrouded in thick poisonous smoke, we witnessed the mass murder of thousands of souls, whose greatest offense to Islam or anyone else for that matter was getting up that morning and going to work, to conduct business, or serve food, or to clean, or to guard. My boss at the time watched the first tower collapse and put his hand to his open mouth in a gesture of horror, shock and revulsion that, like so many snapshot images of that day and the days to come, I will never forget as long as I live.

Then it was over, if over you could call it. The wreckage steamed and smoked from a dozen underground fires while rescue workers frantically looked for survivors, moving cement and girders with their bare hands. Fire crews from around the region and around the country came to the site by the busload to spell tired rescue workers and to show sympathy and solidarity. Charity of every stripe poured in. Whatever the current rumor had the rescue workers needing, it poured in by the truckload: Gloves. Masks. Dog food. Oxygen. Blood. Everybody wanted to give blood. The Red Cross had to turn people away!

And we mourned. All of us. We mourned for the lives of the fallen, and their families. We mourned for the death of a lifestyle we all instinctively knew was gone forever. We mourned for police and fire crews, those who ran in while everyone was running out. The overarching emotion for most people was not anger - it was sadness. Tears were everywhere. Dan Rather crying on Letterman. Jon Stewart crying on his own show. And how could we ridicule them? We were crying right with them.

Much has happened in the shadow of the events of September 11, 2001. Some of it good, much of it not so good. I'm not going to turn this post into an invective-laden polemic against anyone or anything, except perhaps the vermin who perpetrated this horrific crime against the innocent.

But in the aftermath of that day, the nation stood together, and most of the world stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States. We lost that too, which is also something deserving of mourning.

My People - the Jews - get together every April for Passover. The whole idea of Passover is to retell the story of when the Jews were slaves to the Pharaoh, so that it never happens again and we remain a free, albeit nebbish and neurotic, people.

We can learn a lesson from Passover if we apply the same philosophy to 9/11 and retell the story every year - shed real tears for the fallen until all passes into distant memory and we spill a drop of wine for them - and never, ever forget the events of that horrible day, when everything changed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reprint from BDD

This piece originally showed up at the Boston Dirt Dogs website, a Red Sox-based site owned by the Boston Globe, to which I contribute from time to time. I wrote it the Friday before Father's Day.


Father Time

From Gary Jacobs, BDD contributor

PAWTUCKET, RI | June 13, 2008 – It is, like most days here, a beautiful day for baseball. The players are playing in bright sun, though their shadows dance long in front of them. The gametime temperature is 77 degrees and the gentlest of breezes cools the foreheads of the near-capacity crowd of over 9,000. The day couldn’t possibly be better suited to baseball.

Baseball was the game I learned on my father’s knee, the first game I gave my love to. And though I learned to love hockey with almost the same ferocity, baseball is what connects me with my youth, with memories of glorious summer days with nothing to do, and with my father.

We could always count on baseball and the Boston Red Sox to provide common ground, Dad and me. In 1986 I was a willful 17-year-old know-it-all with a full-on case of cranio-rectal inversion. You couldn’t talk to me without me flying into an adolescent rage, no matter the subject. My parents were idiots and worse yet, major crampers of my style. We went nose to nose many more times than once; we came to the brink of a fistfight on at least one occasion. But we both had the Red Sox that magic season – expectations were so low for that squad that they took the city completely by surprise. And when neither of us had much to say to each other, we could always talk about baseball.

Years later, when time started taking its inevitable toll on the old man, and he complained constantly about being cold, I bought him a satin lined Red Sox jacket. He wore it constantly.

Right up until the day he died, which was last month.

And today, as I sit in the PawSox pressbox squinting from the lowering sun, trying hard to concentrate on a baseball game that I’m supposed to be covering, all I find myself thinking about is my dad, and how he absolutely adored sunny dry days like this, when baseball in the evening was a given, and the only question was radio or TV.

Like most men of his generation, my dad was far from materialistic. He wasn’t much for jewelry or trinkets of any kind. After the funeral my mother bade us take what mementoes we wished to remember him by. I took two things: an International League baseball that I got for my dad (a friend of mine actually got it for me; it’s bad form for a reporter to ask for a baseball), and his Red Sox jacket. When I took it home I discovered quite poignantly that it still smelled like him.

Much has been said about the generational nature of baseball, of how it binds father to son. And every morning when I wake up and I see Dad’s jacket hanging up, I find that it binds us still.

Happy Father’s Day, everybody. If you’re lucky enough to still have your Dad, give him a call or head over the house on Sunday – maybe talk a little baseball. -- In Memoriam, Cyril R Jacobs, 1933-2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Speaking of Lennon...

(news from CNN - Thanks Ted!)

(CNN) — John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, was denied parole for the fifth time Tuesday.

The New York State Division of Parole issued a release saying Chapman’s request was denied “due to concern for the public safety and welfare.”

Chapman, 53, is serving a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for the shooting death of John Lennon outside Lennon’s New York City apartment on December 8, 1980. He has served 24 years of his sentence at the maximum-security Attica Correctional facility.

Hosanna to the god-damned highest. If there was ever a stupid, senseless death, it was this one. Mark David Chapman robbed the world of a mature, wise, seasoned John Lennon and who knows what that man would have been? Almost certainly he would have reunited with the other Beatles in 1987 to do Live Aid. Whatever the case, we have missed out on 28 years of great music, introspection and a strong advocate's voice for peace.

And, closer to home, Sean and Julian lost their father. Julian was around 19; poor Sean was only 5. Too soon, too god-damned soon.

So: kudos to the State of New York for making the right decision. MDC can rot in his cell for the rest of his life and in his case, I wish I were wrong about there not being an afterlife, so that he could rot in hell. He stole something absolutely precious from millions of people.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A flaw in the system

I've shopped this question around a little bit to my friends, and none of them seem to have an answer. Some of them look at me with kind pity in their eyes or touch my arm in a show of sympathy when I ask it, because they know why I ask it.

But the question, without any further buildup, is this: Why is there such a fundamental flaw in the societal construct that the inevitable end-product of love is pain? Three months ago yesterday, my father lost his valiant fight against his own deteriorating heart and since then my life has been layered with a more or less constant underpinning of pain. Sure, there have been moments of joy - laughs and good times and the company of friends and family and new children born into this world - but when I'm alone, when I start thinking about things a little too deeply, the pain of losing my dad comes back in full force - an raw, open wound that is showing no signs of healing.

Why on earth was love architected to end, invariably, in pain? The Tralfamadorians, Vonnegut's benign aliens in the brilliant "Slaughterhouse Five," had a much healthier attitude towards death: a shrug of the shoulders and the words "So it goes." Would that I could compartmentalize my feelings towards my father's passing so ably!

It's not just the death of a parent, either. Every time love ends, pain begins. Ask the owner of a pet; ask a jilted lover. Anywhere you have love, beware; soon there will live pain.

Lennon was wrong. Love does in fact die - and it turns into something pretty goddamn dark.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

OK, I have an honorary nephew too

It was recently pointed out to me that there's another child in my life who, although not related to me in any way, is nonetheless a special kid to me and thus deserves mention here.

My pals Smitty and DB have a child, a boy of now 10 named Evan. I hope I don't overstate the case here: To Ev's point of view, I'm the single coolest adult he knows. Sure, there are adults whom he holds more dear than me: his parents, his Auntie Carm (Marcella, for those long-time readers of this little yukfest) for example - but I'm the coolest.

Why does he think this? Because he is SMART. Also because I can make sponge balls disappear out of my hands, do card tricks, play guitar, swear like a sailor in front of him, all the cool things that kids appreciate.

But one of the most important things I do that makes him think I'm cool is this: I treat him like an equal. Since the day I met him I've treated him like a thinking being, never talked down to him, never treated him in any of the conventional ways adults treat children. If he has a question I explain things to him as one adult would explain things to another, and if it's a challenge to understand that, that's cool too. He walks away with a concrete understanding of whatever it was we discussed.

In the last few years, as his sense of humor has grown, he has shown an uncanny ability towards imitation, accents, and the same sort of goofy, stupid humor that anyone who knows me, knows how much I love. HE makes ME laugh now. He's told me jokes that have made my heavy rotation.

So, although not a nephew, he's a damn fine kid, who I'm glad to know. And kid: if you're reading this, get off the goddamn computer and do your homework.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Knieces and Knephews I have Known

I was asked recently, what with all the hoopla surrounding young Piper's debut, if she made me a first-time Uncle. Not hardly; I have nieces and nephews in the double-digits:


I have two nieces and two nephews. Ashley, the oldest, was still a baby when I first met her. Our very first day together I was tasked with changing her incredibly stinky diaper. However, she has recently learned the art of pooping on her own, having graduated high school this past month. She's smart, despite her having picked up smoking, and hopefully the future will be bright for her.

Next down that line is Cody, who in his adolescence has grown from boy to man so quickly that the last time I was over their house he was napping on the couch and I swear to god I heard his bones creaking with growth.

They have a younger brother and sister, Seth and Alexis, who despite only seeing us once a year, inexplicably love their Aunt Vicki and Uncle Gary. They are around 6 and 4, more or less, and are just the cutest things in the state of Ohio.


My nephew Cory is now pushing 20 - employed and with a license and EVERYTHING! I've watched his interests move from Ninja Turtles and Megazords to ... to ... well, whatever the hell he's into now.


Barb and her husband Brian have three of the most well-behaved children I've ever met. It really is remarkable; they still have that special exuberance that kids have but never at the expense of being disrespectful or destructive.

One evening we were over the house and their youngest, Jacob, asked his mom if he could have some yogurt. Upon getting approval, he got one out from the fridge, grabbed a spoon, and set to eating. When he was done, this five-year-old child, without being asked or reminded, rinsed the yogurt cup and lid and threw them away, rinsed the spoon and put it in the dishwasher. His sisters, Brooke and Brianna, are no less polite, charming, and delightful to spend time with.


Bryon just graduated college - COLLEGE, for heaven's sake! - and has just become a dad for the first time himself, to a beautiful baby boy named Evan. I guess that makes me a great-uncle. Yeesh.

Despite hating the Red Sox, Bryon is another great example of a good kid who grew up to be a good man. He's going to be a great Dad.


My brother Eric has a 12-year old daughter, Natasha, who, despite her best efforts not to let it show, just loves her Uncle Gary. Despite having a heaping helping of Jacobs genes, she looks enough like her mom to be pretty. Actually I see a lot of my mother in her, especially her head of curly hair.

It was my pleasure to educate Tasha on the realities of bedtime ("It's not for you - it's for your parents so they can have some quiet time after you go to bed. Use this fact and it can be the first thing you can negotiate away").

She's a pretty typical 12-year-old; she does a lot of text messaging, doesn't care much for schoolwork, and -- oh, that reminds me. Hey! Tasha! Stop screwing around and get your grades up. Will 20 minutes of studying kill you? If all your friends jump off a bridge would you too? Do you live in a barn? Don't make that face, it'll freeze that way.

Anyway, those are my nieces and nephews, and I love them all - especially the ones that love me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Peanut, Redux

I decided this entry deserved its own, er, entry. So while it's still part of the previous entry, now this entry has its own, uh, entry.

**SHOCKING NEW UPDATE:** Peanut is Peanut no more. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you Miss Piper Lily Grace Jacobs. From Proud Papa:

Piper [is] a lovely musical name that we both find rings nicely, and is also a tribute to my recently departed and much-missed father, who was (among other things) a master pipefitter. And yes, she has two middle names. We like them both, so we gave them both to her to do as she pleases with them.

So welcome, Piper. I plan on calling you PJ, partly because I like it and partly because it will so plainly annoy your mom and dad. Stay strong, kiddo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Uncle Gary

Yesterday, my brother Ross and his wife Tara (maybe I should reverse the billing on this one, but no matter, no matter) had a baby, a beautiful baby girl (name TBD).

She came into this world a bit earlier than was forecast; Tara developed pre-eclampsia and they had to remove her (her pre-natal name was Peanut; let's go with that) from the soup in which she was curing. So although 7 weeks premature, Peanut debuted at 18 inches tall, weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces. The delivery was Caesarian; so since she was "from her mother's womb untimely ripped" she has the requisite qualifications to kill MacBeth, should the need ever arise.

Tara seems fine; I have not been able to speak with her since every time I call she's either asleep or getting poked and prodded. Peanut's one-minute APGAR was 7, her five-minute was 9, so for being so teeny she is in reasonable health, although she's in the NICU and will be for some time to come. She's breathing on her own and Rossy held her last night.

I am a mix of emotions about this. Of course I'm deliriously happy for Ross and Tara; it seemed their destiny to bring a tall child into the world. I have every confidence that she'll be raised well, will be indulged yet not spoiled, and will, despite her inevitable tallness, not have the requisite coordination or athleticism to undertake any athletic endeavor. Her Aunt Vicki and I will love her, fight over her, beg her parents to take her for weekends. I will teach her her first swear words, pull quarters out of her ear, tell her the first dirty joke she will ever hear. Her parents will roll their eyes behind her back at the things I will tell her, but I will not care. In short, the Uncle Machine is revving up nicely. Peanut will not want for an extended family of love and kindness.

What she will lack, however, is one of her grandpas, and that hurts me right now. Regular readers of this space know that my Dad passed about two months ago, and more's the pity. Of his death my brother wrote "I grieve that my daughter will only know my father as an abstraction." That's certainly a pity - Peanut will be born with 3 out of 4 grandparents, but that's easy enough to bear: It was my situation and of the many things that bother me these days, that ain't one of them.

No, like most grief, this is a selfish emotion. Over anything else in the world, my father loved his family, loved having his family around him. To have another granddaughter to hold - to add another member to the small, small club that is the Jacobs clan - would have given him great joy, at a time in his life where joyous moments were a little hard to come by. So it's not without the requisite lump in my throat that I can think about Peanut- she looks like her parents, which means that the shadow of my father dances around her ephemerally. And that's no bad thing; as time passes I'll be grateful of the reminder.

Anyway, this is a time of celebration, of joy, and I'm going to do my best to feel joyful and celebratory. Peanut: your Aunt Vicki and I love you very much, and can't wait to meet you in person. I hope we're a big part of your life. God knows you'll need someone smart to talk to every once in a while.

Congratulations, Ross and Tara.

**SHOCKING NEW UPDATE:** Peanut is Peanut no more. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you Miss Piper Lily Grace Jacobs. From Proud Papa:

Piper [is] a lovely musical name that we both find rings nicely, and is also a tribute to my recently departed and much-missed father, who was (among other things) a master pipefitter. And yes, she has two middle names. We like them both, so we gave them both to her to do as she pleases with them.

So welcome, Piper. I plan on calling you PJ, partly because I like it and partly because it will so plainly annoy your mom and dad. Stay strong, kiddo.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Four Acquired Tastes Worth the Time to Acquire

Trust me, folks. If you peruse this list with an open mind your life will be better for it.

1. Tom Waits. It is because of this evil madman genius that Toots and I roadtripped 700+ miles -- again -- to go see him. He sings with a wheezy, raspy, throaty growl that sounds like he took Shemp Howard's advice and gargled with old razor blades. Yet he's provided some of the most beautiful music that has ever graced the world. He will make you laugh, make you think, even make you cry. Run right out today and get a hold of three vital discs: Heart of Saturday Night, Small Change, and Rain Dogs. From there the adventure begins.

2. NHL Hockey. Go to ONE GAME in person where the home team plays well and wins. That's normally all anyone needs. Breathtakingly fast-paced, physical play - lots of fun. It's a mystery to me as to why the US is losing interest in hockey. I do hear from some old-timers that the game has changed radically and while I agree with that statement on its face I think it's a bullshit argument as to why nobody's watching. I've seen lots of old games (I'm from Boston, where the Bruins had glory days in 1970 and 1972) and all I see is a bunch of slow Canadian forwards with no teeth shooting at slow Canadian goalies with no teeth. I'm not saying today's game doesn't have some holes in it (bring back the hitting, please, this ain't the ballet), but these are subtleties that as a newcomer to the game you probably won't observe.

3. Sushi. Yes; you are usually eating raw fish. Get over it. Think about it: when was the last time someone said "I have no problem with raw fish, I just don't like sushi?" The acquired taste in this case is a bit of a misnomer; you have to LOSE something, namely an unfounded revulsion against eating raw fish. When you clear that hurdle and put a slice of tuna in your mouth, and let yourself actually taste it, you'll be hooked. Besides, let's be honest: Sushi is fun to eat. You got yer wasabi, yer soy sauce, lots of little dishes and chopsticks and a dozen different varieties of this-n-that on your plate - it's nothing but a good time.

4. Homestar Runner. A semi-episodic Flash animated world where absurdity is the only constant. Hip but never blue, never takes itself too seriously, lots of running gags, and that rare combination of whip-smart and flat-out stupid that makes me like Family Guy and Scrubs so damn much. It has a tutorial, for Christ's sake. Should be easy to get up to speed.

What are some of YOUR acquired tastes? I'd be interested to hear.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This isn't the post I was going to publish

The post I was going to publish was going to take someone to task for being a fucking asshole prick, but my brother Ross counseled against it. So instead I'll tell a story about one time when I was a fucking asshole prick.

Up the street from where I grew up lived the Zettlemeyers. They're probably long since dead by now, having moved away to where all the Old Jews go probably 25 years ago, and they were ancient then.

Mr. Zettlemeyer was a kindly old guy who I would talk to from time to time - if he ever got tired of my 7-year-old self he never showed it. He'd sit and wash his car while I chewed his ear off with whatever 7-year-old bullshit was going through my mind and pretend to pay attention. In short, he was a nice enough gentleman who never showed me a drop of ill will and whom I was on fair terms with, as neighborhood coots go.

They had a garden in their side yard, a fairly extensive one, in which the Zetts grew pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and other standard garden vegetables. Well, one fine day I got it in my head that it would be great fun to smash a few pumpkins on the street, and I knew just the place to get them.

And I proceeded to do just that. My friend Dave P_____ and I absolutely fucking stomped through the Zettlemeyer's garden - destroyed every living thing in it. The street was a glorious mess - it was a veritable gourd abattoir - and Dave and I were breathless and red-cheeked from the pure fun that we were having.

Until we got busted.

We didn't get caught by Mr Zettlemeyer, or Mrs. Zettlemeyer, but from the teenage kid in the house next to theirs. I don't remember his name but his house was green and I think maybe his last name was Laurie or Lowrie. He was a readhead, I remember that.

He didn't yell, he didn't punk out, he didn't dime us out. He spoke to us quietly - and in doing so burned the memory into my brain such that it still glows bright, even today.

"What'd you do that for?" he asked with real bewilderment in his voice. "It's not just a hobby - they grew that garden to eat that food. Now they're going to have to pay for a summer's worth of vegetables that you guys ruined."

In an instant the selfishness and the stupidity of what we did hit me hard, like a rifle recoiling in my chest. My cheeks were still red, not from running around in the crisp of an Autumn afternoon but now from searing-hot embarrassment and shame for what I had done.

They were a couple of old people on a fixed income who grew a garden to offset the cost of feeding themselves, for Christ's sake, and I took it upon myself to ruin a summer's worth of work singlehandedly. And not two strangers either; people whose name I knew, who knew me and who had no problem when I'd meander over and spend time with them.

That kid never did rat us out. Maybe he saw that he didn't have to. I kind of wish he did - that way I'd have apologized to them, which I never did. To their graves they probably went not knowing which neighborhood bastard punk trashed their garden in a horrible, useless, ridiculous spree of vandalism.

If any of you reading this ever had a relation named Zettlemeyer (or any phonically equivalent alternate spelling like Zeddlemeier, for instance) who lived in Peabody, Massachusetts in the mid 70's, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry your parents or grandparents or Aunt and Uncle or cousin had to shamefacedly clean up the street in front of their house from the remains of their garden. I'm sorry they had to spend extra money that they probably didn't have to buy vegetables and tomato sauce that didn't taste nearly as good as the stuff Dave and I so thoughtlessly destroyed.

If it's any cosolation, it's a lesson I've carried with me all this time, one that I'll never forget as long as I live.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


The curious word that serves as the title to this entry (pronounced 'Slow-sheem') is the Hebrew word for "thirty," and in the Jewish death ritual it pertains to the thirty days immediately following the death of a loved one. It marks a period of more or less unrestrained mourning and unbridled outpouring of grief. One is expected to stay somewhat withdrawn from society (for example, among its rules are that one should not cut one's hair, shave, or even bathe (!) for the duration of s'loshim). It's actually a comfort; I have found that being immersed to an extent in grief is, however painful, something that I realize to be necessary.

But today marks the end of s'loshim for the death of my father, and my symbolic re-entry into society at large. Indeed this morning I shaved for the first time in a month - although I have bathed; believe me, you don't want any part of me if I haven't bathed in 30 hours let alone 30 days.

And I find myself ready to make this re-entry; or should I say, as ready as I will ever be. I discuss my father's passing now with a certain reluctance - not because it's painful but just because I grow tired of the subject. And really, after a time nobody wants to hear tales of someone else's pain, no matter how close that person is to you. After a while - 30 days, say - you just have to put certain things away until they're specifically called for, and resume living your life.

I'll never forget my father and the monumental impact he had on my life. I'll never completely get over the pain of his passing, not if I live to be 120. But this entry is very likely the last you'll hear of me discussing my dad in this way, aside from an offhand remark here or there.

For it is time to move on, and ready or not, here I come.

Goodbye, Dad. I love you and will miss you forever.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On crying

If you think about it, it's the second thing anyone does on this earth. You come out of the chute, a dude in a mask slaps you on the ass, you take a breath and expel it by...crying.

As you make your way in the world, you find that crying is your first line of defense, the primary way to make yourself understood in world that uses language, when you don't. You cry when you're uncomfortable, wet, hungry, thirsty, binky-less, not sitting next to your favorite aunt at dinner. You learn that to cry is to get what you want, magically and damn near instantly.

But as you gain language skills, you're smacked with the unrealistic expectation of using them, and keeping the crying (and its only slightly more sophisticated cousin, grunting and pointing) to a minimum. Curiously, girls, who gain the dubious gift of language earlier than boys (girls: 2.1 years on average; boys: 34.3 years) are immune from the prohibition against crying to get what you want. Especially when what that girl wants is space, jewelry, the TV, or you're such a bastard for not knowing without me having to tell you that I can't even believe I'm still with you, you insensitive prick.

But since I'm a dude, I don't really have the luxury of crying when things don't go my way. Which does not mean to say that I haven't cried as an adult; when Ray Bourque finally won the Stanley Cup the tears flowed like champagne from one of those cheesy champagne glass fountains you see at goyishe weddings. But those are tears of happiness anyways - that's a whole different thing. Like every other male American boy, I was taught that crying when one was hurting physically or emotionally was a sign of weakness. Which gives rise to the following interesting dichotomy: hit your own hand with a hammer and you'll yelp in pain but take it stoically thereafter. Hit a woman on the hand with a hammer and do 18 months in the clink and when you get out, her brothers will beat you to within an inch of your life. But I digress. Bottom line: guys don't cry when they hurt. We just don't.

But let me tell you, when your father dies, all bets are off. Since dad passed about three weeks ago, there have been times even still when some spark of rememberance, a television show's offhand reference to fatherhood or death, a phrase that my father used (or overused)- anything like that is trigger enough to start me crying. Really crying; not sitting in silent remembrance as a tear falls in manly fashion down my cheek. I'm talking the trembly chin, the scrunched-up face, the whole bit. And that is most assuredly something I'm not used to.

The funny thing is, it's not like it helps. Women will from time to time extol the virtues of a good cry, as if it removed toxins or bad vapors or anything but salt and water. But there's nothing that feels particularly cathartic about me crying for the loss of my father. It's just one more suck in the overflowing cornucopia of giant suck that was my dad's death.

I don't know how long this sort of thing takes to die down, but part of me kind of expected it to have done so already. And a great big part of me wants it to. And not just the crying, but the hurt - the pain and the sorrow that comes from losing your dad that leads to the crying. That's really what I want to stop.

Whoop - here I go again.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A poignant moment

As I write this, Jon Lester has thrown a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox and the crowd at Fenway has yet to disperse, and the only thing I could think of was, that Dad and I will have something meaty to discuss Wednesday.

Except of course that conversation isn't ever going to take place, not ever.

God, I miss my Dad.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cyril Robert Jacobs, 1933-2008

This past May 5th, my father passed away.

Even though he'd been in delicate health for years, and on an intellectual level I'd come to understand that we wouldn't have him for a whole lot longer, when the end came it was nonetheless surprising, shocking, and incredibly painful.

The week he died was dizzying, exhausting, poignant, frustrating, neverending, and now, thankfully, over. To see my dad committed to the earth from whence my people believe he came - to be asked to take a shovelful of that earth and cover my dad's coffin with it - was almost too much to bear.

I'm not the first person to lose a parent. I know that it is nature's way, if she is kind, that one loses one's parents.

But even though I'm fast approaching 40, I find myself a little bit lost without my father. He'd long since stopped providing anything to me aside from his love and unconditional support, but I still have moments when I ask myself just what the hell I'm going to do without his steadying presence in my life. With no disrespect to my mother, who raised us well and in a house full of love and happiness, it was my dad who taught me the big life lessons - what it really means to be a man, how one should act even when no-one is looking, that kind of thing. He very much made me the man I am and now he is gone, irrevocably and permanently.

And, eleven days after the fact, there are still days where it all seems a little too much to bear. Everyone I hear from who's lost a parent says the same exact thing: You never stop missing them, ever ever ever. The pain might lessen but it just never goes completely away. And that seems awfully big to me - maybe a little too big right now.

My mother, my brothers, and I will all eventually normalize. I am aware of the amazing healing power of Father Time. I wish life had a fast-forward button, but as it is we're all just going to have to drag our asses through each day until memory brings a smile instead of a lump in one's throat and a tear to one's eye.

Thanks for listening. Do me a favor: if you still have your parents, give them a big hug when you see them.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Day I Almost Got a Ball

I published this story for a site with whom I used to be affiliated, Most Valuable Network ( I no longer write for them but you should still check them out - they cover a fair gamut of sports fairly well. Anyway, this took place August 14, 2005, in a rain-shortened game against the Chicago White Sox. Enjoy.

Sunday I was at Fenway Park, taking in a little Big Club baseball and a lot of water. But it wasn’t all rain, and the day wasn’t all wasted.

It started off pretty poorly, actually. I’ve seen a lot of baseball this summer and wasn’t feeling particularly well all weekend, and truth to tell, I wasn’t looking forward to trekking all the way into Boston (I’m a Rhode Islander) and sitting in the 95-degree heat for three hours. But the seat I had that day was just too kick-ass to pass up. FB 51, row B — three or four seats to the third-base side of the screen, four rows off the field. Closer to the action than the guy on deck. So I had to go, even though on the train and for the first inning or so I was sweating profusely and cursing baseball for taking place in the summertime.

Of course, the weather broke spectacularly when the heavens opened up, so I didn’t have to worry about that for too long. In fact, between the first and second rain delays it was quite comfortable, if you don’t mind being a little waterlogged, which believe me, I didn’t.

In the row in front of me was a kid of no more than 8 or 9 years, with blond hair bordering on white, longer than you normally see nowadays. It was obviously his first game. He brought his glove and kept pestering his dad for a foul ball, as if a word from him would be all that was necessary.

In the third inning, he got his ball. The home plate umpire took a ball out of play and rolled it to the ball boy. This kid went over to the rail and stuck out his mitt, and the ball boy tossed it right to him. The look on his face, predictably, was pure ecstasy.

A couple of minutes went by during which he looked at his trophy over and over again, turning it this way and that in his hands, pretending to throw it for the winning putout of the World Series, tossing it up and catching it. After a while he asked his father a question I couldn’t hear and saw him shrug his shoulders. He turned around to face me.

“Excuse me,” he said, which was the first good sign, “is this your first time here?”

“Umm, no,” I said with a bit of a smile - it was by my count the 32nd time this year.

“Do they [meaning the players] stay after the game and sign autographs?” he asked.

“Not really, no,” I said. “You might want to try the player’s parking lot an hour or so after the game.”

At this, the kid turned crestfallen. His shoulders slumped and his hopeful expression turned blank.

“But listen,” I said, “You’re still a lucky kid - I’ve been coming here since I was your age” — my advanced years must’ve made a suitable impression here — “and I’ve never gotten a ball, ever.”

He gets this thoughtful look on his face - I assumed that my comment had made its desired impact. But then he huddles in with his dad for a little while and turns around to face me again. This time, he’s holding out his ball.

“Here,” he says. “You take it.”

It took six or seven times before I could convince him to put it back in his glove. It’s tough to sound forceful when you have a lump in your throat. He finally did but said to me, “If I get another one, I’ll give it to you.”

I said, “If you get a second one, you can do what you like with it - but you gotta keep that first one.”

Well, he never got his second one, and unless we see each other at the make up game (the game was postponed after a ridiculous 4 hour delay) the point will forever be moot. I’ll never even know the name of the special little kid who made an impression on me that will last the rest of my life.

However, if he does show up, and does get a second ball, I will take it from him, and ask him for his autograph on it - for, as I plan on telling him, we get autographs of people we respect and admire. And that little towheaded kid earned both of those things from me Sunday with that one simple, unselfish, magnificent gesture.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Two Posts in Two Days?

Why, I never heard of such a thing.

But I was trolling someone else's blog - he was waxing nostalgic about his hometown as it was some 60 years ago, and it got me thinking of the changes that have come about in my hometown, which happens to be West Peabody, Massachusetts.

One thing you should know about Peabody is that, like any other town I suppose, it's very much a product of the time during which it came into its own. For West Peabody, that was the late '60s and 70s - which is the exact epoch of my pre-pubescent youth.

West Peabody, situated as it was 18 miles north of Boston, was thought of as the sticks. When my parents moved there from the much more sensible city of Everett, complete with its zero-lot-lines and double- and triple-decker houses, the sprawling ranches and 1/3-acre lots must have seemed one step away from farms. Over everything, West Peabody was quiet. My father recalls vividly that the two things he had the hardest time getting used to was the lower ceilings of the house they'd bought, and the eerie, everlasting quiet that was the suburbs. He, after all, spent most of his adult life living on the same corner as a bus stop; the difference must have been startling.

In a lot of ways of course that kind of suburbia still remains; my little corner of it has changed very little. Most of the houses are still the same color as they were; indeed of the five houses that comprise my parent's closest neighbors, three are occupied by the same people that occupied them in 1970. But there were a few differences, which serve as a quaint reminder of how things used to be:

  • There was a guy who would walk a pushcart down my street, clanging a triangle. He was the knife sharpener; what a way to make a living. He was not a young man, either, and he had a lot of ground to cover. He was one of the first casualties of the throwaway society to which the US transitioned in the middle '70s.

  • There was a grand total of one Chinese restaurant, and that wasn't even in Peabody: The Bali Hai in Lynnfield. To this day it remains my favorite Chinese joint, to the eternal disgust of my wife, who, as they say, ain't from here. When another restaurant opened in Peabody, the now-offensively-named Oriental Jade, we wondered why on earth anyone would open a Chinese restaurant so close to the Bali Hai.

  • The main street that connects West Peabody to Peabody proper, Lowell Street, was at one point such a quiet sleepy street that one could walk -- hell, one could saunter -- across the street with complete confidence that nobody was coming any time soon. Now (and for the last twenty years) it's choked with traffic and crossing the street against a light or not in a crosswalk is beyond folly; it's outright suicide.

  • One of my most amusing memories is looking out my window at the garbagemen coming up the street - and my 5-year-old self would (remember this was 1972 or 3) flash them the peace sign, and they'd flash it back at me. The stop signs in our neighborhood all had the word "War" spraypainted at the bottom. My dad would use that as an excuse to run the stop sign. I remember protesting one day and he said "It says 'stop war,' not stop the car." I also remember being satisfied with that rationale. And even in deepest suburbia, there were hippies: Our neighbors three doors down, the News (you out there, Danny? We all hated you), had an odd relation who would show up in an ancient blue Saab and would, on early mornings, lean against it and play the flute. I remember liking him, thinking that the rest of his stuck-up douchebag family could stand to be more like him.

  • And of course, my Dad was a hale, strong, funny bastard with an ever-present twinkle in his eye and a shit-eating grin on his face that made you think he had the world by the short-and-curlies, my Mom was young and pretty, and my biggest responsibility was coloring inside the lines - and you can bet your ass that I miss those things way more than the knife sharpener guy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been so long away...

...for which I must apologize to my faithful readers, both of whom are probably dead or wholly apathetic by now. Same old excuse, I guess: work is occupying most of my cranial real estate lately, as Your Humble Scribe has received a promotion. I'm particularly proud of the monetary negotiations that took place therefrom:

Big Cheese: I'm sorry to say that we can't offer you a raise at this time.
Me: Well, how about an increase in my yearly bonus?
BC: Sorry.
Me: A spot bonus?
BC: No can do.
Me: An extra week of vacation?
BC: No.
Me: Can I go to this year's incentive trip?
BC: No.
Me: Very well, I accept.

So for precisely no remuneration whatsoever, I inherited a great big vat of responsibility and a company cell phone that quite conveniently keeps my work tethered to my hip 24 hours a day, seven days a week, interrupted only by sporadic periods of fitful sleep during which I dream about - you guessed it - work. In short, I have turned into the precise type of corporate joyboy that I hold in quiet contempt for having no sense of work/life balance.

Nevertheless, there are some quiet corners of the ol' pumpkin that are occupied by things other than work. Forthwith then some of the mighty ponderables that poke up from time to time when I'm on the crapper.

  • In many ways, The Beatles' Norwegian Wood stands head and shoulders above the rest of their catalog, especially their catalog up to that point. This was 1965, mind you, when the Hollies were warbling ditties like "Look Through Any Window" and the British Invasion pretenders were still teenybopping. John created this masterpiece, blending a haunting, complex chord progression with angry, bitter lyrics about women who tease in general, and his first wife in particular, who he always thought cornered him into marriage ("I once had a girl; or should I say, she once had me.") Words like masterpiece are too easliy tossed about these days, but it's high time this song get the credit it deserves.

  • Are you familiar with The Flying Spaghetti Monster? It's a brilliant counter-argument to Intelligent Design. There's not enough space here to describe it fully, but essentially, some guy said that the world began when an omniscient being that looked like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs created the world and everything in it. If you believe that Intelligent Design is ridiculous pseudo-science bullshit, read about it here: Highlight: A letter to the Kansas Board of Education which reads in part "..."I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence." Brilliant. Just Brilliant.

  • If you are in any way interested in Military Intelligence campaigns, you owe it to yourself to read everything you can regarding Operation Mincemeat. There are many web-based treatises about it; there's a pretty complete Wikipedia entry. From
    a 1995 article in WWII Magazine:

    When the campaign in North Africa was drawing to a successful close, the Allies'next strategic target was painfully obvious to anyone who could read a map. "Everyone but a bloody fool would know it's Sicily," said Winston Churchill.

    Sitting in the middle of the choke point of the Mediterranean, Sicily was the shortest route from North Africa to Adolf Hitler's Europe. It was also the base from which the Luftwaffe had pounded Malta for many months, as well as any convoy that tried to reach the beleaguered island. Sicily had to be taken, but its rough terrain favored the defender. Any attack against a well-entrenched force would be very costly, or might even fail. If the enemy only could be misled as to where the Allies intended to strike next, the attacking force might encounter something less than a fully manned defense. But how were the German general staff and intelligence service to be duped on such a grand scale?

    The solution to that problem came from two relatively junior British officers: Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu, a reservist who represented naval intelligence on the interservice XX Committee (XX for double cross), and Squadron Leader Sir Archibald Cholmondley, Montagu's Air Ministry counterpart. It was Cholmondley who first suggested planting false Allied documents on a dead body and letting it fall into German hands.The XX Committee was initially skeptical of the bizarre plan, but in the end Montagu made it work.

    Before the war Montagu had been a successful barrister, and after the war he would become judge advocate of the fleet and one of England's greatest jurists. In the early months of 1943 he used his lawyer skills to blend an intricate and massive hoax into one of the most phenomenally successful deception operations in the history of modern warfare.

    If it tickles your fancy pick up a copy of the book "The Man Who Never Was," written by one of the principal architects of Mincemeat, Ewan Montagu himself.

  • My brother Ross and his wife Tara are having a baby! Join the virtual baby shower here.

Well, that's about it for now, I reckon. I promise, more to come. Peace, Love, and His Noodly Appendage.