Iacta alea est!

WHEREAS I overheard a conversation last week that made my eyes misty with nostalgia, and

WHEREAS I haven’t played hooky in two years, and

WHEREAS there was a nine-year period of my life wherein a month without an unauthorized day off was as unthinkable as a forty-eight hour period without a cocktail or a thought of ‘Lost in America’ is now, and

WHEREAS I am not going to just stand around and feel as old and jaded and cranky as Mr. Wilson anymore, and

WHEREAS I no longer have to save money for six weeks in order to have enough money to cut school and do anything besides make out in the park, and

WHEREAS that is especially poignant considering that I now have the facilities to make out any time I want, and

WHEREAS I am sick and tired of looking at the all-too-brief-summer out the window over the copier, and

WHEREAS it has come to my attention that selling my expertise and time does not mean selling my soul, and

WHEREAS if I am to be chided for immaturity, I am surely going to reap the benefits of that immaturity, and

WHEREAS if I am to be a ‘team player’, it is from this day forward gonna be for my goddamn team,

I HEREBY DECLARE that the first day of summer, June 21, will be the inaugural Adult Ditch Day.

You have the overnight to consider the implications of this, and tomorrow I will expect each and every one of you to join me in the Vow of Truancy.

Start Your Engines

The 500’s this weekend. I might watch it this year. Certainly the end. So will a lot of people. Racing mighta found their Tiger Woods.

I’m not kidding. You think you’re not interested in racing? You will be. There’s a rookie driver, name of Patrick, who is gonna revolutionize racing. Not just in America, either. Barring disaster — this is, after all, auto racing — kid is gonna make two hundred gazillion dollars and be the most famous athlete in the world inside five years. Book it.

How?

Well, one, I am assured by a friend of mine who is well versed in these things that Rook is the real deal. Great driver. Next big thing and all that. Would be a top draft pick under normal circumstances, which these surely are not.

Two, kid’s not gonna hurt for media exposure. Works for Rahal-Letterman Racing. Yeah, that Letterman. Top-ten-reasons-the-biggest-sports-star-on-Earth-works-for-me Letterman.

And three….

…well…

…this is Patrick:

Danica Patrick.

Say hello to the Next Big Thing.

(UPDATE: Indy’s TV ratings are up 40% over last year. Franchise.)

Old School

This morning, I found myself awaiting my usual Green Line train with the usual commuters plus three cuties whom I would describe in lascivious detail if I did not suspect — based on information obtained later — that they might be slightly underage for serious leering. I find that the older I get, the higher my lower age limit is, and it seems this crew was on the cusp. Couldn’t tell it from looking, though.

They chattered like a cageful of parakeets the whole way into the city, with one another and into cellphones. Here’s a partial transcript:

Pink Sweatshirt: Do you think we should call?

Low-Rise Jeans: No! If we call from our cells, they call your house.

Blonde Curls: To check, y’know? Like to see if you did it yourself.

PS: Oh. I don’t think they’ll notice anyway.

LRJ: I hope not. What am I missing, anyway? French and study hall. Meh.

BC: Who cares if they do? Our parents won’t care.

PS: Yeah. They didn’t care last time. Remember, when we went shopping?

LRJ: That was so cool. And had lunch at Potbelly’s? And you got those shoes?

BC: Yeah! And told my mom that you got dumped so we went to the park and cried? That was so cool.

PS: Hello? Yeah. On the train. No. Yeah, I know. Potbelly’s? Maybe to Old Navy? Or the place with the boots? Cool. Bye!

LRJ: Look! There’s the city!

BC: It’s so big.

LRJ: It is big. It’s a big city.

PS: It is!

BC: I’m soooooooo excited. I love this. Hello? No. Yeah. Bye.

LRJ: What should we do first?

PS: I don’t know!!!!

They were cutting school and going on an adventure, God bless them. I’m so old and jaded and jealous I could cry.

Big Ben

Though I’m foggy on details, a dispute has arisen over at Mushroom Printing as to whether or not a child would be better off raised by wolves than by Becky. Many of the people I know, some of whom are more kindhearted than they are bright, immediately rushed to reassure Becks that she is a better mom to her son than a wolf would be without pausing to determine whether or not that is true. It is a reasonable hypothesis, and this rush to dismiss it stands contrary to virtually everything I believe in. Besides the stuff about black rum and blowjobs, I mean.

So I felt that before I proffered an opinon on Becky’s parental fitness vs that of a lupine upbringing, a thorough analysis was warranted. Thus, Being Raised By Wolves Vs. Being Raised By Becky: A Tale of the Tape.

Diet
Raised by Wolves: Carnivorous, including rodents and carrion
Raised by Becky: Omnivorous, if somewhat unadventurous
Advantage: Becky

Mental Stimulation
Raised by Wolves: Stalking prey, avoiding hunters
Raised by Becky: Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus
Advantage: Wolves

Medical Issues
Raised by Wolves: Worms
Raised by Becky: Asthma
Advantage: Becky

Sleeping Place
Raised by Wolves: Nomadic, includes caves and burrows
Raised by Becky: Nomadic, includes Dave’s old apartment
Advantage: Push

Eventual Sex Life Centers Around
Raised by Wolves: Licking his own balls
Raised by Becky: Rose
Advantage: Becky

Relationship to Cars
Raised by Wolves: Fear
Raised by Becky: Fear
Advantage: Push

Protective Outer Coating
Raised by Wolves: Mud
Raised by Becky: Old Navy couture
Advantage: Becky (Barely)

Honorary Relative
Raised by Wolves: Large pack of filthy, drooling killers
Raised by Becky: Chris de Luca
Advantage: Push

Nostalgia Provoked By The Sounds Of
Raised by Wolves: Howling
Raised by Becky: Oops, I Did It Again
Advantage: Wolves

Communication Skills
Raised by Wolves: Barking, whining, growling
Raised by Becky: Cute names for Dave, cellphone calls, profanity
Advantage: Push

Eventual Introduction To Society
Raised by Wolves: Unsuccessful
Raised by Becky: Difficult but not impossible
Advantage: Becky

There you have it. By a score of 5-2-4, being raised by Becky is, without question, marginally superior to being raised by wolves. Let’s put this episode behind us, now, shall we?

Cinderella Story, Outta Nowhere

It’s been a while since I’ve put the burden of a blog-chain-game-thing on you people, but recently I’ve been both thinking about food a lot and reading John Feinstein’s A Good Walk Spoiled, and I’ve decided y’all can handle it. (Plus some of you are coming up on a month dry, and I’m here to help.) Bear with me on a little sports-related backstory here. It’s relevant, I promise:

The Masters is one of golf’s four annual ‘majors’, and probably the most prestigious. In 1952, Ben Hogan suggested the event begin, every year, with a dinner attended only by Masters winners and the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, and the Champions Dinner was born. The menu is chosen by the previous year’s winner – who also picks up the tab. A few examples:

Phil Mickelson, 2005: Lobster ravioli in tomato cream sauce, Caesar salad, garlic bread
Mike Weir, 2004: Elk, wild boar, Arctic char, Canadian beer
Tiger Woods, 2002: Porterhouse steak, with a sushi appetizer
Mark O’Meara, 1999: Steak & chicken fajitas, sushi, tuna sashimi
Tiger Woods, 1998: Cheeseburgers, fries, strawberry and vanilla milkshakes
Nick Faldo, 1997: Fish and chips
Ben Crenshaw, 1996: Texas barbecue
Jose Maria Olazabal, 1995: Paella, tapas and hake
Bernhard Langer, 1994: Turkey and dressing with wedding soup and black forest torte
Fred Couples, 1993: Chicken cacciatore
Nick Faldo, 1991: Steak and kidney pie
Sandy Lyle, 1989: Haggis with neeps and tatties

So between the book and my dangerous food obsession, I got to thinking, if I won the Masters, what would I have on the menu for the Champions Dinner? Obviously it couldn’t be restaurant-specific food — no “The rolls from Lambert’s and the pork from Neely’s and the tartare from Bern’s….” menu — because it has to all be prepared in the kitchen by the normal Augusta staff, and I don’t really have a regional or ethnic or nationalistic point to make, and, unlike a couple of guys from across the pond, I would feel a certain obligation to not stick my fellow champions with Fear Factor food, so it was generally kind of a toughie. Here’s what I came up with:

Turtle soup au sherry
Stone crab claws
Grilled skirt (flap) steaks
Breaded onion rings or thick-cut french fries
Grilled asparagus with ginger salad dressing
Crusty rolls
Coconut cream pie or cold lemon cake
Kona coffee
Cocktails

Your turn. Presuming you won the major award in your field, and tradition dictated that you select the menu for the celebratory banquet, what’s it look like? Post it below, or post it on your own blog and let us know where to look.

Opening Day (with apologies to W.P. Kinsella)

People will come.

They’ll come for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only barbecue.

They’ll buy supplies without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the yard; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere near the Pitmaster, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes.

And they’ll eat and drink and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been barbecue. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But barbecue has marked the time. This food, this crowd: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.

Oh, people will come, Ray.

People will most definitely come.

**

230pm Saturday. Give me a shout if you don’t know where.

Cuando Estás Aquí, Eres La Familia

People have been asking me how the wedding and associated trip to Cape Cod went. What immediately comes to my mind when they do is the beautiful moment in “History of the World, Part 1” when Caesar responds to the unveiling of some tribute or another by saying “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling…but nice.” That’s exactly how the wedding and trip went. Not thrilling…but nice. Nothing went unusually wrong, but nothing went extra-right, either. No blown engine, but no spectacular meal. No magical walk on the beach under the stars, but no three-day bout with an intestinal parasite. The bed was a joke, but not as bad as the one in Jackson. I had an excellent muffin and a fine lobster roll, but I also ate overcooked cod and airport pizza.

Other weekend notes:

-I am getting better at flying, little by little. Having starting three and a half years ago with unreasoning full-flight terror, I am up to mild nervous grouchiness from about an hour before departing for the airport through about sixty seconds after takeoff.

– I like my niece Bella very much, but not so much that she’s giving me any ideas. Carrying her around and having people coo at us, though, makes me feel like I’m walking around the Olympics wearing medals I bought for a costume party.

-Provincetown is Santa Monica without the sunshine. All you need to know about Cape Cod weather can be gleaned from two facts:

1) On May 15th, 70% of tourism-related businesses were not yet open.

2) On May 15th, less than half the trees had budded.

-New parents have interesting ideas as to what makes acceptable mealtime conversation. This is especially noticeable when one is eating littlenecks on the half shell.

-I may be promoting some cousins from Class B to Class A. It’s very interesting, to hang out with people you haven’t seen more than a few times in your life, but who are suddenly around family events a lot. You have a spookily common frame of reference with what seem on the surface to be some nice folks you run into on occasion. (“Remember the stuffed frog? And the Shoe Rule? And the Erma Bombeck book we all read twelve times because it was the only nonmedical publication in the house?” “My God! How do you know of these things? Only I and my brother know of these things!”)

-Rented Car Report: Ford Taurus, Budget, $87.50

Overall Size: B-
Interior Room, Considering Overall Size: A
Luggage Space: A
Acceleration: D+
Speaker Quality: C-
Field of View: F-
Color: A
Not Adding A Giant Charge To The Bill After Return The Way Avis Does: A+

-Comedy moment: The oldest boy of one of my cousins obtaining permission from his father to take home one of the Siamese fighting fish used as centerpieces, and celebrating his new pet as my cousin – who may have had a martini – remembered that ‘home’ was a nine-hour trip west in a minivan with three children under eight. He and I had, subsequently, a brief discussion in hushed tones as to similarity of appearance in the species and the ease with which an impostor might be obtained. (“Oh, no, Junior, Mr. Bluey caught a flight back to Ithaca. I’m picking him up at the airport tomorrow night while you’re asleep. Yes, that is his bowl next to the toilet. He, uh, asked me to pack it for him.”)

Primitive As Can Be

Logic 101 Final Exam Essay Question

For three months, the Skipper declined repeated entreaties to attend the island Coconut Festival. Though he wanted badly to go, he felt his time would be better spent repairing the Minnow with Ginger, plus he was a skosh low on clams, if you catch my drift. Gilligan and Mrs. Howell were going to the Coconut Festival on margin, and pleaded with the Skipper to go with them. “You can fix the boat later!” they said. “You’ll have enough clams, as long as you use your Island Express card liberally.”

Gilligan and Mrs. Howell persisted, and eventually triumphed, in no small part because the Skipper really did want to go to the Coconut Festival. The Skipper plunked down many hundreds of clams for a hut and a raft and so forth, and arrived at the Coconut Festival, at which Mrs. Howell constantly maneuvered to save a clam here and a clam there, which irked the crap out of the Skipper, as Mrs. Howell’s philosophy appeared to be that saving a lot of clams was bad, but saving a very small number of clams was good.

Help the Skipper out.

Family Values

I have to go to a family wedding this weekend wherein the bride is what I described to someone as as “Class B Cousin”. While she’s doing something I’m immensely proud of her for — marrying a boy toy — I still find myself irritated about this. Which is typical of everyone on earth, and I won’t bore you by railing about family.

What is apparently untypical is my Relative Classification System, as there was mild astonishment and confusion at my use of the term “Class B Cousin”. I assumed everyone had adopted a similar rating system for non-immediate living blood relatives, but it seems not, so I’m sharing mine. It’s very useful.

Classifications below are confined to second-degree blood relatives — uncles, aunts, grandparents, and first cousins.

Class A Relatives

All of the following statements must be true:

1) I would sustain financial damage and/or incur moderate to large inconvenience in order to witness major events in this person’s life.
2) I think of this person in direct relation to myself. (i.e. ‘My uncle’ vs. ‘my mother’s brother’)
3) I would probably have cause to be friends with this person if they were not related to me.

Number of living Class A relatives: Two

(Note: Most friends are category-equivalent, and statement #2 is particularly useful for determining the status of friends’ new paramours.)

Class B Relatives

Class B status is conferred upon those relatives wherein #2 and/or #3 above is true, plus I would be willing to be slightly inconvenienced in order to have lunch or a beer with that person, say during an airport layover, or when I am within a sixty-minute detour of them on a long road trip.

Number of living Class B relatives: Ten

Class C Relatives

Class C Relatives are the family equivalent of a commuter who regularly rides my usual train. A cordial greeting is exchanged occasionally, particularly around Christmastime, or when there is inadvertent eye contact, but otherwise, they are simply another person who happens to regularly inhabit the same places I do.

Number of living Class C relatives: Five

Class D Relatives

All of the following statements must be true:

1) This person’s opinion of me is no better than neutral.
2) This person has been openly hostile to me personally on at least one occasion.

Number of living Class D Relatives: Two

Too Soon?

Unedited Transcript Of A Conversation I Had Today With A Coworker That Caused Another Coworker To Use The Word ‘Disgusting’ In A Heartfelt Tone Of Voice:

**

Coworker #1: “Hey, Al, you got a second? I don’t remember how to resize photos.”

Al: “Sure. Open up Photoshop and I’ll be right over.”

Al crosses left to stand behind Coworker #1‘s chair. His desktop wallpaper is a photo of a suntanned young woman with the kind of blonde-streaked hair I find particularly appealing.

Al: “Who’s that?”

Coworker #1: “Terri Schiavo.”

Al: “Huh. She wasn’t half bad.”

**

Evidently that wound’s still a little fresh.