Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's Over

From up here, Tim could see everything.

He could see the statue in the square. The one with the 19th century-clad gentleman holding a none-to-pleased baby and a countenance that made you question the man's intentions. He could see the stop light on the bridge over the highway that bisected the town into North and South. He could see the surprisingly well-maintained gazebo and the patch of green grass it sat upon, freckled with dandelions. Those dandelions always reminded him of Lisa. It wasn't that they were reminiscent of the small splash of freckles across her cheeks and nose. Or that she used to beg him to save some of the pesky dandelions in his own yard any time he mowed. Actually, Tim didn't know what it was about those things that reminded him of Lisa, but it wasn't either of those two thoughts.

Besides, it didn't matter anymore.

As Tim looked down and watched the people crossing the street, walking up the sidewalk head down or just sitting on a park bench, he laughed. He actually laughed! Here he was, about to commit to the final act of quitting, "The Big Quit" as he had affectionately dubbed it weeks ago, and he was snickering. The one reason - the ONLY reason - he wished he was going to be around to witness his own death was to take in the startled reactions of whoever happened to be in the vicinity when his body lay awkwardly twisted on the cement. But that was pretty much the definition of a catch-22, wasn't it?

As he gazed down onto the street, Tim felt a twinge of disappointment at how few people were actually out and about. He was hoping for a bigger crowd. Oh well. Here goes.

With that final thought, Tim leapt off the 15-story tower. Never afraid of heights, he enjoyed the fall. Even spread his arms like a glider, embracing the acceleration of gravity and cold air rushing against his face, whipping through his clothing.

As his descent quickened, his excitement spiked. This was it. This was really it!

And then in the moment before his carefree body hit the pavement, in the very last instant before his head assumed all the form and function of a Gallaghered watermelon, one thought popped into is head, filling his doomed body with regret for the very first time.

"Shit," he thought. "I forgot to turn off the oven."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I have one chair in my dining room. Just one. It's not part of a dining room set. It's not an easy chair. It's not a loveseat, a lazy-boy or a papasan. It's an otherwise nondescript metal folding chair with a cheap vinyl padded seat. But it's the only chair I am absolutely certain I will have until I die.


I found out at about 3 PM Tuesday I was going to Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the Garden. My buddy JD had an opportunity to buy a pair of tickets and floated the idea by me. I'll spare you the details of how much it will cost me in 47 easy payments, but I decided I might not get another chance like this, so I had to do it.

The first thing I noticed as I walked toward Causeway was the absolute sea of green and white. I've never seen anything like it. Every single person I saw was wearing a BEAT LA t-shirt, a Celtics warmup jacket--I even saw a white #20 jersey with the name "Shuttlesworth" embroidered on the back. As the Celtics bandwagon grew over the preceding weeks I had grown increasingly frustrated as one of the few people I knew who had actually stuck with the team during the Jimmy Rogers, Chris Ford, M.L. Carr, Rick Pitino and Jim O'Brien eras. Every girlfriend I'd ever had hated sitting through two hours of green futility 3 times a week, only to have to deal with me being a sourpuss the rest of the night. But when the Celtics ended the 2007-2008 regular season with the best record in the NBA, completing a turnaround that the most optimistic of pundits failed to predict even in hyperbole, the number of Celtics "fans" swelled into the millions, regardless of gender.

However, walking to the Garden on a beautiful early summer evening on my way to hopefully witness history, all was forgiven.

Amid "Beat LA!" chants and choruses of "Seventeen! Seventeen!", JD and I made our way inside the Garden. Usually upon entering, you can spot the people who don't belong. The clueless teenage girls out for the night thanks to Daddy's season tickets, the greasy douches on a mission to bag the teenage girls and the thugs on a mission to beat up the douches. But tonight it was different. Maybe I was swept up in the excitement and wasn't as observant as usual, but every ticket holder I saw was a real fan. The kind with whom you can have a basketball discussion without wanting slit your wrist afterward.

We stopped between escalators on our way up to the balcony and grabbed a few beers. Neither of us having eaten, we spotted a guy with a plastic tray loaded with nachos and couldn't resist, even though we knew they'd be as soggy as a bowl of 4-hour-old Cap'n Crunch in about 45 seconds. We found our seats, victuals firmly in our beer-soaked hands and could instantly tell how different the atmosphere was. Here we were, an hour before game time, standing in row 5 of the balcony and already people were standing. The guys behind us were referencing their experience at Games 1 and 2, so we knew those were the guys we wanted to be around. This was going to be great.

After the expectedly overdramatic (though no less goosebump-inducing) player intros, Bennett Salvatore leaned in to throw the jump ball. Gasol didn't steal the jump as much as Perkins remained completely sedentary. For a guy playing with a bum shoulder, that was not a good sign.

Immediately Kobe came out sizzling, knocking down three quick 3s, which led to JD turning to me and saying, "Shit, Kobe's going to score 50 tonight." And me replying, "Yeah, but he's taking 3s! I'm can live with him out there all game." As confident as I sounded, I was petrified. We've seen Kobe go nuts like this a few times and when he does, he's almost impossible to stop. Almost.

Despite Kobe's marksmanship, the Cs played the Lakers even through the first 6 minutes thanks to an aggressive KG and repeated Rondo'ing. I've said it before, but Rondo is just incredible to watch in person. He's almost always the smallest guy on the court--he can't weigh more than 155, I don't care what he's listed at--but he has a nose for the ball, as well as the athleticism and hands that allow him to do things you just don't see from guys that size. It's a little like watching Nate Robinson, you know, minus the thuggery.

Anyway, midway through the second quarter, the Cs start to pull out in front. A HUGE 3 by House puts them up 11. I can't say enough about House. He hit a ton of big shots in the regular season, then Doc Rivers completely yanked him around in the playoffs. He didn't pout. He didn't mope. He was up waving the towel during every big moment, and when Doc finally went his way during the Detroit series, he ran around like a House afire, played harassing D and hitting several big shots. Just don't ask him to handle the ball.

Outscoring LA 34-15 in the second quarter gave the Cs a 23-point lead at halftime. I could not believe what we were seeing. The Cs looked completely dominant on both sides of the ball. They were suffocating Kobe and the sharpshooting Lakers on D and absolutely imposing their will on the offensive end. Posey, House and Ray (despite being the recipient of a brutal eye gouge that of course wasn't called) couldn't miss, and even Big Baby made his presence felt by bellying up Pau Gasol, 6 inches his vertical superior. They were actually doing it!

Deafening is not the right word to describe the crowd. It was almost the reverse. It seemed like it actually heightened my senses. You know those warm summer mornings when you're walking alone outside somewhere and you look around everything seems so green and clear? And you wonder why everything doesn't always look like that? That's what it was like being in the Garden. I felt like I could see every detail in the building. I could literally count every purple and yellow jersey freckled throughout the aisles. If I tried, I could listen hard enough to isolate every crazed individual's voice screaming "NO MEANS NO!" while Kobe shot a free throw. If there's a heaven, I'm not so sure it's not the Garden when 20,000 of us smell a championship.

People will tell you the second half was anticlimactic. It wasn't. We've seen three historic comebacks in this series alone and I was not comfortable. Heading into the 4th quarter with the Celtics up 29, the jumbotron showed a few local athletes and celebs. The crowd erupted when a giddy (for him) Bill Belichick appeared for the umpteenth time, but then a stoic Danny Ainge appeared on the screen staring at the court with a look that said, "I am not looking up and acknowledging anything until the horn sounds. I know you're filming me but I'm not looking up or smiling, so stop it before you jinx this." That is exactly how I felt. I even got a text message from my buddy AC that read, "Congrats! Years of feeling like crap about your team are over. We got KG!!!!" That last bit was something we had repeatedly sent to each other during games over the season, reminding each other just how lucky we were.

But I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about Game 2 and how LA shaved off 24 points in about the time it takes me to open a Slim Jim. So I wrote back, "Shut up!" And being the voice of reason, he came back with, "The Lakers would need a 40-9 run to win. Over!"

He was right.

True to form the Celtics continued to play hard despite having a lead that approached 40. Ray hit three straight 3s and ended up with 7 triples on the night, capping a roller coaster postseason for the best pure shooter in NBA history. KG was a beast on both sides of the court, going to the hoop the way we all wished he did in Game 5 and hauling down 14 boards. And more than any other, this was the defining game for Paul Pierce. It wasn't the Game 7 dual with Lebron, or the 38-point explosion in Game 5 of the Finals. No, this was the 2007-2008 Paul Pierce. The Paul Pierce who doesn't need to take 25 shots for the Celtics to win. The Paul Pierce who re-dedicated himself on the defensive end making him the most complete swingman in the NBA. The Paul Pierce who, despite 10 years of ups and downs (mostly downs) won an NBA Championship in the only city he ever called home as a professional. This was the Paul Pierce who shut down one of the best scorers the world has ever seen, outplaying the titular MVP in every facet of the game. This was the Paul Pierce who etched his name into the stone of the Celtics foundation, flanked by Bird, Russell, Hondo, Cousy and all the names you've heard a thousand times during the playoffs. This was Paul Pierce, officially one of the Celtic greats.

As the buzzer sounded, JD and I exchanged a few violently celebratory manhugs and enjoyed the moment. Players, trainers, coaches and Celtics employees of every stature flooded the court. David Stern shrugged off the boos to hand out the championship trophy and Stuart Scott conducted the compulsory interviews. 45 minutes after the game ended, and after standing for at least 46 of the full 48 minutes of game time, not one member of the crowd had left. I scanned up and down the rows to find someone, anyone walking up the ramp. None.

To get a better view of the mayhem, JD and I snuck down the floor level and onto the court. A Garden employee walked by, a little black wagon full of Celtics championship Wheaties boxes trailing behind him. JD grabbed a box and we headed up the stairs. I had to both outdo his theft and leave with something of my own other than a pocket full of green and white confetti. Noticing a row of folding chairs in front of a concrete facade, I grabbed one, and we calmly, but quickly, left the Garden via the carpeted stairway, occasionally taking detours around Garden personnel.

Jubilant, and still feeling like, "Holy crap I can't believe we did it!" we took in the hubbub outside. Green and white everywhere. Cops dressed like Judge Dredd brandishing little tan clubs that did not seem to have the desired effect of deterrence. But what was there really to deter? People were happy. Unspeakably, unabashedly, understandably happy. The war, exponentially increasing gas prices, a fledgling career, late 20s bachelorhood...none of it mattered. My favorite team playing my favorite sport in my favorite city just won it all and I got to see it happen.

And I stole a chair.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conversations Between Gil and Cal

Gil: Hey Cal, what's up?
Cal: Nuthin, just playin some sports.
Gil: I can see that. Nice shot.
Cal: What's that supposed to mean?
Gil: What's what supposed to mean?
Cal: You know damn well what I'm talking about.
Gil: Um, actually I don't. I said, "Nice shot" and you flipped out.
Cal: There you go again, being all condescending.
Gil: What are you talking about? How am I being condescending?
Cal: Oh come on, you're the SMART one, you should know how you're being condescending.
Gil: Well geez, I'm sorry if I sounded condescending.
Cal: You know, it's that attitude right there that makes me want to bust a cap in your face.
Gil: It's "ass," Cal.
Cal: You know, it's that attitude right there that makes me want to bust an ass in your face. That can't be right.
Gil: The expression is bust a CAP in your ASS.
Cal: Why would you want to shoot someone in the ass when you could shoot them in the face?
Gil: I don't know, maybe it's a humiliation thing. Like, if you shoot a guy in the face, they're pretty much dead, but if you shoot them in the ass it's kinda like the ultimate insult. And they have to think about it every time they sit down.
Cal: But what if you shot the girl in the cheek so the bullet just tore a hole in her cheek but didn't go into her head or anything? Like what happened at the end of Fight Club. He shot himself in the cheek, right? And he was OK?
Gil: Your creepy misogynous tone notwithstanding, yes, I think that's what happened in Fight Club. Edward Norton shot himself in the cheek and while it left him disfigured, it killed Brad Pitt, with whom Norton shared a body.
Cal: Shared what body? Helena Bonham Carter? Yeah, they really did share her body I guess.
Gil: No, I mean they shared one body.
Cal: Yeah, Helena Bonham Carter.
Gil. Geez, no, I mean they inhabited the same body.
Cal: Oh I get it. Hey, Gil, you know that girl Sarah I told you about.
Gil: Yeah.
Cal: I inhabited her last night. Twice!
Gil: Goodbye, Cal.
Cal: What did I say?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Amputeens: Episode 1, Part 2

Living on a main thoroughfare has its advantages:

No one has trouble finding your house.

Commerce is always a short walk or drive away.

Your address is generally a nice large number like 452 or 1681.

But backing out of your driveway into traffic at 8 AM on a Wednesday is most certainly NOT one of those advantages. After what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably less than 2, Roger gunned it in reverse, cut the wheel hard with his palm and accelerated with a slight lurch. No matter how gently he shifted into drive from reverse, the Sentra always lurched. Every time.

Easing down Pleasant Street, Roger steadied the wheel with his left elbow and reached across his body with his right hand, instinctively knowing the placement of the driver's side window button. As the window lowered with a sound that could be described as something between a buzz and a rattle, Roger thought about how odd it was that everyone still uses the term "rolling down the window." No car built in the last ten years has had manual windows. People just have a hard time letting go of what they're used to.

With the window down, Roger got a whiff of the nostalgia offered by the warm, late summer air. That smell always reminded him of playing four-square in elementary school. He wondered why that memory always popped into his head. He hated four-square and was always terrible at it. But for those few formative years, Roger played it every day during recess on the pavement court marked by aged, flecked white paint. Did you even call it a court? He didn't know. But every morning the kids would be lined up waiting for one of the lucky four sharing the court to hit the cheap red rubber ball outside the lines or to break a rule recently decreed by the current four-square king. Hey, since there was a king, it probably SHOULD be called a court. Roger made a face at himself for even thinking such a lousy joke.

Roger glanced out the passenger side window as he passed plot after plot of predictable architecture (if it even warranted the lofty term). The uneven lawns were home to an endless array of once brightly colored toys, their cheap plastic now faded after a summer of harsh sun and disuse.

"Man I hate Rhode Island," he thought.

He turned his attention back to the road and realized he was driving 15 MPH. But he wasn't the cause of the slowdown, more the result. This was strange. Pleasant is usually busy at this time, but it's never bumper to bumper. "There must be an accident," Roger surmised.

Now completely stopped, Roger leaned his head out the window to get a look past the traffic. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust down the road, but when they did, they widened in horror.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Man Digs to China

Man Digs to China
June 2, 2008

BOSTON, MA—Today the old adage, "Sometimes the only way to get out of a hole is to dig yourself out" rings true to at least one Massachusetts native.

At approximately 4:30 PM, Sunday, June 1, Gary Newsome, a serial murderer and life-long resident of Brockton, officially completed his dig to China.

"I never thought it was possible," Newsome explained enthusiastically. "I mean, you always heard those stories when you were a kid about how if you keep digging, eventually you'll get to China. But this? This is just surreal."

Nearly 16 days ago, Newsome began his now legendary descent in his backyard.

"I was burying some stuff that I had to get rid of. Some latex gloves, a hatchet, some lime, you know the stuff I generally use for my murdering. Anyway, obviously I didn't want anyone to find all that, so I figured I'd bury them deeper than usual." That's when things got interesting.

As the minutes became hours and hours became days, Newsome fought through the fatigue and kept right on digging. He would give himself incremental challenges. For example, he'd see how many feet he could dig one day and try to break that record the next.

"It kinda became an obsession," Newsome confesses. "You know, digging that hole was a lot like serial murdering. You get fixated on something and you just have to follow it through no matter what. You just keep doing it and doing it and you can't stop."

And he didn't stop. Not until he had been boring through earth, bedrock and molten core for over two weeks. Not until, by a mind-numbing twist of equilibrium, he had somehow found himself digging up instead of down. Not until, with one violent hack above his head, he punched through the windswept surface of Tiananmen Square.

"My first thought was, 'Where the heck am I?' My second thought was, 'Wow, these little guys are gunna be so easy to murder.'"

Is that enough reason to prompt Newsome to set up permanent residence across the globe?

"Nah," Newsome dismisses. "Now that I finished the hole, I need a new task. Maybe I'll try to jump so high I touch the sky. Or murder an albino king or something. There can't be many of those, right?"

But even if he never reaches those lofty goals, Gary Newsome's name has secured a place on the lips of schoolyard children across the continent. He dug so far down, he got to China.