We survived the football game.
The title is taken from a line in the Steely Dan tune ‘Midnight Cruiser’
It is less than two weeks before I hit the road once again and head to my real home, Michigan. This trip will be a combined golf trip and The 2nd Annual Reunion of The Eastside Kids. At present I only have two set tee times but that is subject to change. The first round is at an old favorite, Dunmaglas on Monday 5/13. Beautiful course set among the forest and hills of northern MI and with four holes set on top of a bluff completely open to the elements giving this part of the course a Scottish feel. The second round will be at a new course closer to Detroit. Cherry Creek in Shelby Twnshp will have the added attraction of my good buddy Jim Irvine, the $6 Man.
Here’s a shot from Dunmaglas.
My itinerary is as follows:
- Sat night – Motel 6 in Macedonia, OH
- Sun & Mon nights – Motel 6 Traverse City
- Tues night – Manistee
- Weds night – Mt Pleasant Wold Motel
- Thurs – Sat nights – Microtel Roseville
Many of you may recall that at our 1st annual reunion, last year, we indulged in a couple days of basketball. For the most part it was what should have been expected from a group of 60 somethings trying to make their bodies remember what they could do when they were 20 somethings. There were however vestiges of glory still to be found, to wit; Tracy can still hit from anywhere and Rick is still a ball hound. For my part my main goal was to not get hurt, of course I failed. Pulled a calf muscle that bothered me for weeks after the fiasco. So it is with some fearful anticipation that I announce that this year we are going to play football. Yep you read that right; football. A little history is in order here. Back in the late 60’s we had a neighborhood tackle football team and a damn good one at that. Under the brutal oppressive regime of our quarterback and despot, one Charles LeFurge, we ran roughshod over the other teams in the area. Suffice to say that it is the brain child of that same despot for us to play flag football. Good golly but just the thought of blocking, running, or even what should be a simple task, reaching out and grabbing the flag makes my shoulder start aching. Stay tuned for a full report including a list of the assorted injuries or perhaps a coup.
A couple pics of the basketball:
Look at all those smiling faces
This is The Dead Dave chalk outline photo.
I’m not sure if it’s my intention to blog some thing every single day before departure but it does seem that way. Some possible visitations include a stop at Hartwick Pines for a jaunt into the past as I hike the trail through the last vestige of virgin White Pine in the state. Spent many a pleasant camping/hiking trips there through the years, lots of great memories of The AuSable River Trail, of the strong enough to grow hair on a rock camp coffee, the camaraderie around the campfire at night…yes great memories.
Been a few days since the last update but no mind, nothing much to report. However, departure draws nigh, only three more working nights and then the road beckons. Played a couple rounds at Da Muni this week…pitiful is the first description I can think of…less than mediocre at the very least. Hope I have my A game next week when I tee it up with Jim $6 Irvine…certainly will need it as he can beat me using only a seven iron and a putter. 🙂
One of the many interesting aspects of these Eastside Kids reunion affairs is the disparity among the group when it comes to politics. We have had a few Facebook and email confrontations but we haven’t let that affect our historical relationship. I affectionately refer to Chuck as a right-wing whacko and to him I am a flaming liberal hippy commie. We do have a kind of a rule in place that forbids political discussions during reunion weekend…I mean its bad enough to have to listen to all the gripes about Jim Leyland and Phil Coke. One huge, glaring disparity that cannot be swept under the rug is the choice of beer. There are those among my cohorts who will drink anything including rotgut American industrial lagers and their weak-arse cousins the Lite beers. However, there are also among my cohorts those of us who refuse to be dragged down to that tasteless realm and will be consuming only fine ales, stouts and porters.
Well the bags are packed and loaded in the car…I am ready to hit the road…except for one small thing, I am at work tonight so will have to wait another 7 hours or so. I did load up the 6 cd changer for tomorrow’s listening pleasure. First up is Flogging Molly’s Speed of Darkness…this album was written in honor of the city of Detroit….the connection is Bridget Reagan, the fiddle player and wife of the band leader, Dave King, is from Detroit. They have purchased a home there…I think that is very cool. The rest of the cd lineup includes more Flogging Molly in slots 3 and 5…they are the Live from the Greek Theater recordings…excellent concert…the other three cds are compilations of either Ocho’s A List or Tunes of My Times…the last song on the cd in slot six is Midnight Cruiser from which the title of this journal was derived.
You all will be happy to know that due to popular demand I will be doing a Critter Count Report as I make the drive from the secret underground location of the Brown University data center to Traverse City MI. For clarity I have divided the animal world into two parts – 1. the large-such as deer, elk and mountain lion… and 2. the squishable-such as skunk, opossum and meercat. The two day totals are not for the squeamish. My totally accurate counting system has arrived at these figures: living squishables = 0 …. squishables who experienced up close and personal what it feels like where the rubber meets the road = 96. The large animal count was limited to deer…no elk or mountain lions seen … final tally = 1 live deer and 6 deader than last week’s pork chops. The bird count came out like this … hawks=4…vultures=many…large heron=1…various and sundry wrens, warblers, sparrows and thrushes etc that cannot be identified at 70 miles per hour.
A word about the weather in northern MI on this day. WTF? Almost white out conditions briefly a couple times on I-75 between West Branch and Grayling as snow squalls blanket the region with a “freshly fallen silent shroud of snow” (Paul Simon) I am somewhat taken aback by this meteorological mishap. I came prepared for golfing conditions not skiing or snowmobiling.
A few candid self portraits of taken in various rest areas along the way and one shot of my luxurious first nights motel….spared no expense for this trip.. 🙂
Rest Area outside Grayling MI on I-75…mysterious flaky white stuff on the ground.
Disregarding the elements I decide to play my early morning round at Dunmaglas. It was a bracing 36 degrees when I finally teed off around 8:45…oh yeah, the golf cart did not have a windshield so the ride was exhilarating to say the least. I was wearing 5 layers so I was comfortable for the weather if just a bit constricted golf swing-wise…so after opening with 3 double and one triple bogey, my game finally came to life and played up to my mediocre standards the rest of the round. Ended up with a 96 which considering the first 4 holes wasn’t too bad at all for this old, multi-layered hacker of the sacred turf.
stand of jack pine
covered bridge hole
frosty first fairway
Road trip day as I make my way south from Traverse City to Manistee. A lot of my travel today is on M-22 a scenic 2 lane highway that skirts the Lake Michigan shoreline. I have an updated Critter Report … saw 6 live deer this morning and only 1 deader than last week’s pork chops…not paying attention to the squishies though I did see one live squishable critter – think it was a ground hog. A related Critter Report from yesterdays round of golf…every time I play Dunmaglas I see a flock of wild turkeys and this year was no different…saw them on the same hole as usual.
The Big Manistee River
M-55 east out of Manistee is a mostly flat and straight road until it gets close to M-37 where it has more twists, turns and hills. As has become a ritual I stop at a roadside park where the Pine River flows under M-55 at Cooley Bridge. The observant will note that the bridge is no longer named The Petersen Bridge…I don’t know when the name changed but I intend to launch a full investigation into this matter. To those of us boys who attended the annual Knox Church Men’s Canoe Trip on the Pine River, this bridge will forever be Petersen.
I am thinking about the first time I went on the trip. I partnered up with a good buddy Rick Crees….neither of us had ever canoed before and The Pine is not a very forgiving river to novices. We butchered our way down that river from bank to bank with the occasional foray onto partially submerged logs and boulders. Ye gods what a nightmare … my left arm started locking up from all the paddling….finally we were rescued by Mr. Blackstock and Mr. Crees. Those trips were epic, nightmarish canoeing aside, the food was great, the volleyball was great, the talk around the campfire was great, all in all they were great times.
I’m also reminded of Rick Crees, my erstwhile canoe mate. Last time I saw him he was home on leave from the army. He was stationed as a male nurse in Germany…he went into the army as a conscientious objector. The next time I saw him I was a pallbearer at his funeral. He died while hiking in the mountains in Germany. That’s all I have to say about that.
Perusing the map at Cooley Bridge Roadside Park.
Reunion time is here. Traveling down from the great north to the environs of the city of my birth via M20, US10 and I75 to the sacred turf at Cherry Creek Golf Club located at 24 Mile Rd and M53. Will be hacking with Jim 6$…well I’ll be hacking, Jim is actually good at this golf thing. Here’s a shot of the dynamic golfing duo:
Ocho and Jim the 6 Dollar Man
For those of you in the unwashed masses, back in the old days there was a TV show called The 6 Million Dollar Man- starring Lee Majors as a scientifically enhanced robotic hybrid dude. Jim was always the strongest of the group and very athletic so we dubbed him the $6 Man and the name has stuck through the ages. Cherry Creek is a nice venue…greens were like lightening compared to my round at Dunmaglas….consequently I was a touch long on a lot of putts, thus leading to a lot of three putts which in turn leads to a higher score and the accompanying bursts of inventive profanity.
Once we had tamed Cherry Creek it was time to meet up with some more of the reunion crew and shoot some pool and imbibe tasty beverages…well some of us drank tasty beverages, the others were drinking baby beer. My contributions to these games of angles and vectors has always been minimal due to the fact that I am geometrically challenged and pretty inept at this particular activity. No matter, we stayed only long enough for everyone to get there … we decided that seven dollar beer was a bit much,,,and then headed out to dinner and an exciting evening of catching up, laughing, swilling beer and just generally having fun.
Big topic of discussion is the upcoming football game tomorrow. Chuck is bound and determined to see this through…just like the military man that he is or was, Chuck is prepared to sacrifice his troops for the greater glory of, umm, well the greater glory of Chuck. He looks upon this as not just another thing to do, but as his swansong as a football player…his legacy as the best quarterback to rise from the mean streets of the Eastside is more important than the pain and suffering he will be subjecting the rest of us to.
Tracy ready to break…Chuck in the line of fire..Tom safe in a corner
The Eastside Kids – Another One Bites the Dust – Football Extravaganza Day
a.k.a. The Swansong of a Legendary Quarterback
The excitement and anticipation has been building for about a year now regarding this year’s main reunion activity. For a year Chuck has been chomping at the bit….using email after email exhorting the rest of us to get excited about the team getting back together for one last time…for the most part the rest of us have been reserving judgement on the possibility of playing football at the age of 60+. We tried to point out the inherent dangers of asking this group to perform football actions; such as running, leaping, blocking, catching a pass in full stride, etc, etc but Chuck would hear nothing negative about the sport he loves. So, he has come prepared…at least mentally…he has also spent the last year gathering info on flag football rules & regulations, gathering the required equipment; orange cones to mark the field boundaries, diagrams of different field configurations, flag belts with velcro for the flags and I bet if you press him hard enough you will find he did spend considerable time drawing up plays(that we didn’t use)… One thing he kept repeating to us, “this is the last time I’ll get to play quarterback’…well heck, we were content on that having already happened…I for one wasn’t anxious to renew my football career and even after spending all of last night listening to Chuck ramble on about how much fun it was going to be, both during our impromptu party in room 210 and later in our room(yes, Chuck the right wing whacko and Paul the left wing hippy pinko are traditionally lumped together as roommates) as I tried to shut him up so I could sleep, I found myself hoping for a frog-strangling, gully-washing rainout.
Dan’s Diner – breakfast on football morning. We who are about to die eat bacon.
This morning dawned clear and sunny and the sense of foreboding has diminished and turned into the sense of the inevitable as we gathered for breakfast at Dan’s Diner. However, things were not all bright and rosy. Tracy called to let us know his mom wasn’t doing well…he had been up most of the night with her and did not think he would be joining us for breakfast or football This was the first of many setbacks thrust upon Chuck on football morning. Thankfully, Tracy’s mom improved and he would be able to join us in a couple hours so one setback avoided….but….the dreaded threat of injury was still to be faced.
Having finished what I thought might be my last meal we headed out to face our destiny, well first we stopped to get beer, then headed to our destiny. The car I was in was last in the three car caravan with Tracy in the lead car as he was the only one who knew where we were going. Tom’s late model Caddy was in front of us when it began smoking and leaking fluid…at least he had enough power to make it into a gas station/convenience store parking lot before it conked out.
INJURY REPORT #1
- Cadillac is down – transmission/radiator hose ruptured – surgery required.
The Caddy is down – football is in jeopardy
While Tom made calls to tow trucks and repair shops the rest of us took the time to converse and speculate on the possibility of not playing. Chuck was visibly shaken by this twist of fate and kept pacing around saying to no one in particular, ‘ We are gonna play, dammit, we are gonna play. Where’s my beer?’ By this time word had gotten to Tracy in the lead car and he turned around to head back to the rest of us. As timely as to be expected in situations involving tow trucks and repair shops, we finally got an eta on the tow truck and a repair shop that would work on the Caddy right away. Most of us then headed to the field, the others took care of getting Tom to the game after getting the Caddy to the shop. Chuck was all smiles again.
Chuck setting up the field of play – Turtle supervises.
While Chuck built the arena us gladiators prepared for the coming spectacle. These preparations included making sure the beer was on ice, making sure our wills were up to date and that we had our medical insurance cards and tossing the ball around as we “ran” pass patterns from our youth re-familiarizing our bodies to the nuances and movements that would soon be needed. Another delay, which Chuck took rather well now that the field was ready, as Turtle had to run an errand. We used that time to good effect as we became more relaxed as we threw or caught passes to each other. Perhaps that was his downfall, being too relaxed instead of ever vigilant in terms of how far to go in the catching of a pass. To his credit, the catch was remarkable, probably the best of the day and we hadn’t even started playing yet. The catch came with a price however.
INJURY REPORT #2
- Jim $6 is down – seems that the right robotic hamstring has been over extended – placed on injured reserve immediately.
A collective groan of disbelief echoes off the trees and houses as we watched Jim $6 writhe in agony on the ground, screaming, ‘ Should have stretched!’ Mark, who coincidentally threw the pass that damaged the bionic hamstring, began immediately to stretch. The rest of us had some more beer while we waited except for Chuck who when faced with the probable loss of the best player tried mightily to repair the damaged muscle by any means possible even the laying on of the hands.
Chuck massages Jim $6’s hammy.
With Jim $6 hors de combat, that brought our playing number to 7 so Chuck decided he would play QB for both teams. Oh my that was just what he wanted..a dream come true…QB twice on his last day.
The Eastside Kids – Another One Bites the Dust – Football Extravaganza Day
Football Follies – part two
1 belt fits most….2 belts fit Turtle
Having gone over the preliminaries such as learning the rules and donning our flag belts we were ready for the kickoff…well hang on, we’ve another delay as Tracy is having some difficulty getting the flag belt around his ample girth. Faced with another delay to his glory seeking, Chuck once again springs into action and finally after a five minute struggle they arrive at a solution. For the vast majority of flag football enthusiasts one flag belt fits most, it takes two to traverse the Turtle.
Tom ‘Thundertoes’ Thielen aka Superman starts the action.
Hiding behind Dave the Destroyer, Paul the hippy Bennett returns the kickoff
The game itself was full of miscues, mistakes and bouts of laughter. It is impossible to describe all of the action so we will concentrate on the highlights. One of the first readily noticeable highlights was during the kickoff/return… we were all actually running, an activity that I personally had given up a couple decades ago. The first play from scrimmage does however bring us to:
INJURY REPORT #3
- Chuck – injured forearm throwing a pass – seriousness unknown as Chuck refuses to give in to the pain – a generous slathering of Ben Gay helps make the agony bearable – that and another beer.
You have to admire someone who continues to persevere despite the pain, despite the setbacks, despite not having anyone around who could run a pass pattern as explained in the huddle. Chuck LeFurge screams in agony with every throw but every throw brings him closer to legendary QB status. Just a few more plays and he will hold the unofficial record for most pass attempts and completions by a sexagenarian. These things are first and foremost on the diminutive yet pugnacious QB’s mind as he calls the next play, a down and in pattern for me in the end zone. The ball is snapped and I head down field at full speed(well even in the old days my full speed was slower than most, nowadays it is just slightly faster than a mall power walker)…doing the down part of the down and in proves to be no problem….however, when I make the cut for the in part of the down and in, this proves to be a problem.
INJURY REPORT #4
- PB is down – pulled groin muscle – status day to day – running(or any reasonable facsimile thereof) is out of the question – recommended course of action-replace Chuck as designated QB.
You know that scene in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan where Kirk is screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘KHAN!!!!’? Well that’s kinda like but not quite as amplified as Chuck’s, ‘NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!’ That’s why I think that the repeated questions of, ‘Are you okay?…Are you sure you can’t run?’ were not asked in the spirit of true caring for the the injured. After a few moments of denial Chuck finally held out his hands and received from me my flag belt. He will have to be content on being the best damned defensive back and receiver.
A Brief Interlude
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the fine photographic contribution of our own award winning camera guy – Jim Shields. Jim risked life, limb and possible divorce by putting his body in harm’s way countless times to get the perfect shot…not only this year but last year as well at our basketball debacle. Way to go Jim…can’t wait until next year to see you straddling a lane to get that perfect shot of a bowling ball headed to the pins. Here’s a link to this year’s slide show. http://show-vid.com/view/9aabmxm4
The Eastside Kids – Another One Bites the Dust – Football Extravaganza Day
Football Follies – part three
The teams were now as follows: The Blue Flags – Chuck, Dave and Wing … The Yellow Flags – Tracy,Tom and Mark with me reprising my role from 1962 when I was the designated quarterback for our Lenox St. touch football games. I was 11 and had broken my left arm in September of that year. While that did end my baseball playing for that season, I was not about to miss out on football as well.
Now, there is a slight difference in the way Chuck runs a huddle from the way I do. Typical Chuck huddle: ‘All right maggots. We’re gonna run an x-wide 35 on 3 and ladies try to run the right pattern this time.’ Typical Paul huddle: ‘What do you guys wanna do?’ The one downside to having a democratic type huddle is the danger that someone else will take over…kinda like Tracy did a few times, so on one play I’m lateraling the ball to him so he can throw a touchdown pass to Tom(a magnificent diving catch complete with a bloodied forearm). On another play they don’t even hike to me…Tracy gets a direct snap and throws another touchdown pass to Mark. Of course the only reason that play worked was the very impressive fake I put on(see pic).
Paul laterals to Tracy..Tracy throws TD to Tom
- Tom makes a diving catch and bloodies the ground.
What a mesmerizing fake by Paul as Tracy gets a direct snap.
Mark skies for the ball for the score.
The Blue Flag team also managed to score a touchdown although with a more traditional method. They let the actual QB throw the ball and I threw a perfect spiral at least 7 yards down field to Chuck which he turned into a TD with a scintillating run after catch…at least that’s how he remembers it. For some reason we have no photographic evidence of this scoring play but since this game is all because of and all for Chuck, I’ll let the possible delusion on his part stand as fact.
We now come to the exciting climax to this emotionally charged, physically draining battle between these giants of the athletic world. When we were younger the least athletic of our group could arguably have been Mark. This is not to say he wasn’t an athlete, I mean he did pitch us to a league championship and then to the finals of the city championship in 1966 so that is proof of his caliber, however he did go hitless for the entire season as well so you can see where I’m coming from here. Yet despite his lesser pedigree and frankly a pitiful basketball player, he won MVP honors at last years epic basketball games. The situation is this…the score was Yellow 14 – Blue 7 and we were running out of gas. It was decided that the Blue team would get one more set of downs to tie the score. The Yellow team kicked off to Dave who looked like a cornered ostrich as he bobbed and weaved around trying to avoid being caught. As funny and entertaining as that was it netted him maybe an extra yard.
All these Barry Sanders moves got him about 1 yard but was fun to watch.
Dave looking like a cornered ostrich returning a kickoff.
The play called in the huddle was a sure fire winner and I felt every confidence that it would work. Wing hadn’t caught a pass all day so he was my main target. He sprinted out to the right on a down and out. I looked left first to confuse the defense and then threw the best pass I had thrown in over 40 years but Mark streaked in from out of nowhere, stepped in front of Wing, intercepted the pass and ran like Forrest Gump to the other end zone. Final score Yellow 21 – Blue 7.
Mark MVP Winningham seals the victory.
Sadly, this marvelous play has come under some scrutiny as rumors have crept in speculating on some nefarious, underhanded shenanigans between Mark and Paul. Not seen on film but certainly witnessed by everyone there was a jubilant Paul jumping up and down exhorting Mark to run like the wind. The most damning evidence of a conspiracy to throw the match was however caught on film. Now are you going to believe what you see or what I tell you?
Dirty deed caught on film?
Firstly my excitement over Mark’s interception – I was merely showing my happiness over a friend’s success. Secondly the photo – this was only an exchange of funds for the Advil and beer I purchased for Mark prior to the game. Yeah, that’s it and that should end these despicable aspersions heaped upon my character.
Let us not forget about Chuck and his dreams for his last game. Although he was deprived of his Raison d’être, that of being recognized as a legend among quarterbacks, he did manage to catch a TD pass and on defense he was all over Tracy like a fly on a cowpie the whole game. It gave Chuck immense satisfaction that ‘The Fat Bastard didn’t catch a single pass.’ I could point out though that Tracy did throw 2 TD’s and that we have photographic proof of Chuck holding the fat bastard on one play and face guarding him on another but I won’t point those things out as they would detract from Chuck’s special day.
After the Game
With the echoes of “MVP MARK” continuing to reverberate off the surrounding houses we limped or crawled to the cars and headed to the Microtel for re-hydration and recuperation … the re-hydration part required another beer run. Room 210, the designated hangout, was the abode of Jim $6 who was limping badly as he made his way to the couch, a bag of ice in hand to ease the pain. Chuck could hardly walk as well, this being a combination of many things, one – he hit the ground more than anyone while guarding the fat bastard…two – there wasn’t enough Ben Gay in the state for his screaming forearm…three – copious amounts of cheap beer; though this did help somewhat with the Ben Gay problem. Tom was eyeing the war wound he received diving for a catch in between swigs of beer and Rum Chata. Dave had forgone the polite societal approach and was drinking straight from the Rum Chata bottle. Wing kept looking back and forth between Mark and Paul searching for clues to prove the conspiracy theory. Mark, still basking in the glow of glory attained took another pull on his Killians, and smiled from ear to ear at Wing. Paul sat down gingerly, took a long pull on his Killians and reflected on the fact that he was 61 years old and has a pulled groin muscle…what is wrong with that picture? At this juncture our illustrious photographer, Jim, came in and told us that the fat bastard was setting up for poker in the motel breakfast room and to get our butts down there.
The Microtel mgmt allows us hooligans to play poker in the breakfast room. Note where Chuck is sitting…the cooler is just to his left.
Poker has a long history with this group, in fact card playing in general helped pass the time on many occasions at the flat on Nottingham. There were many epic games of Hearts played in a smoke filled haze. When we played poker it was usually an all night event with the winner(s) on the hook for the losers steak and eggs breakfast at The Clock restaurant on Warren. No such high stakes are involved in the reunion games as the card playing is mostly just a backdrop to intelligent conversation about the arts or perhaps philosophy. These are certainly not times that are filled with raucous hilarity or just plain silliness, I mean we are, after all, mature adults.
Right about the time that we concluded that Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy was an excellent painting but we were more drawn to Paul Gauguin’s Two Tahitian Women, the repair shop called which meant Tom and Dave would be heading back home and that we would be heading to Famous Dave’s BBQ for dinner. The rest of the night was spent in 210 watching the Tigers, drinking beer(maybe I don’t have to mention that), telling stories and once again spending much time in laughter. I wish I could remember some of the specifics…maybe we need to have a recording device running during these times of reminiscence but then that would expose the fact that we really don’t talk about Gainsborough or Gauguin.
Shooting Pool with The Red Wings
Wing, Chuck and Jim $6 watching The Wings beat The Blackhawks .
Sometimes it takes a little more effort to get out of bed. Sometimes you lie there and wonder if the pain of rising is worth it but then necessity removes all doubt as you stumble and groan your way to the bathroom. While it does take a bit longer to recover these days eventually the really hot shower, a cup of coffee and a few Advil do the trick and you are able to make it to the car for the drive to Dan’s Diner for breakfast. Make no mistake we will need as full a recovery as possible. We have a full day of activity ahead of us with Rick Prince who since he didn’t take part in yesterday’s festivities will be raring to go and will most likely talk us into doing something stupid like play basketball.
Rick’s backyard – Wing still contending that the fix was in at the football game.
Having gorged ourselves on eggs, pancakes, sausage gravy and bacon it seemed like a good idea to just vegetate for a bit. So after a (do I have to say it?) beer run, we headed to Rick’s to sit and contemplate the universe and it’s mysteries while we planned our day. I like to say that the reason I became friends with Rick is so I would have a better chance at sweeping his sister Debby off of her feet. Yeah, well as they say in the old country, “How’d that work out for ya?” Suffice to say I never won her heart(until this year anyway…she is now my steady) but I stayed friends with Rick despite the pain of rejection.
Oft times we found ourselves in the throes of pain inducing laughter as we recounted yesterday to Rick though I think the funniest happenings in Rick’s backyard were the wanton destruction of two of Rick’s chairs by The Fat Bastard. It seems that canvas seated director chairs or those outdoor chairs with wicker seats are no match for Turtle. For a minute I thought we may have to call in the tow truck again to winch The Fat Bastard out of the collapsed canvas directors chair and then once we maneuvered him out of that one he sat and destroyed the wicker one. Rick finally brought out a steel girder reinforced kitchen chair that held up magnificently under the bulky constraint of Turtle’s double flag belt circumference.
The only real tense moments of the weekend happened in Rick’s backyard. Jim $6 apparently unaware of the ban on political discussions told a rather unflattering joke about Obama and Biden, the gist of which was that they are dumber than a bunch of sexagenarians running around playing football. We all remember fondly the uncountable number of times over the years that Chuck has lost it and this had all the makings of a doozy. You see Chuck loves our Presidential team and is hard pressed not to go all Rambo on anyone who would dare to besmirch the names of either Barack or Joe. As Chuck rose out of his chair to confront the blasphemer he hesitated for a moment as he recognized what a futile gesture it would be to challenge The $6 Man so he regretfully sat back down with a forced guffaw and said, ‘Good one $6’.
notice the difference in the beer.
All eyes on Mark who was sadly saddled with me again for a partner.
Time to head out to what can now be called a Reunion Saturday tradition since we have had two reunions and both times we ventured to a pool hall appropriately named The Recovery Room. It was also time for the Red Wing – Black Hawk playoff game to start and $6 insisted the channel be changed to it right as soon as we walked in the place….and who is gonna argue with $6? We have established two other traditions at this pool hall emporium; to wit: there will be two pitchers of beer on the table – one is industrial swill/baby beer and the other will be Killian’s or Sammy…the other tradition is that Mark and Paul will be team mates and will not win a match. We didn’t play too badly, I actually sank a few of our own balls but it was hard to concentrate due to the excitement of The Red Wing game and the fact that Rick had mentioned playing basketball.
Part 2 – Nothing but Net
I wonder if when we have our 10th reunion and we are pushing or reached septuagenarian status, will we still be susceptible to the belief that we are immune to the ravages of time and aging? Will we still fall for Rick’s appeal for just one game or if not a game then one game of twenty-one? How many years before we act our age and do like me and $6 and refuse to budge from our seats on the front porch while the others tempt fate and an ambulance ride once again? There are five players so the teams are Rick and Turtle versus MVP, Wing and Chuck. Now at first glance, the unwashed masses would assume that Rick and The Fat Bastard had no chance against three opponents but they would be wrong…very wrong. Time and time again, the pair would hit shots from everywhere even with Chuck draped all over them like a cheap off the rack suit(let’s face facts boys and girls – MVP and Wing ain’t basketball players so Chuck is all over the place like a crazed bee who can’t decide what flower to sit on). Not that it does any good, Rick and Turtle will not be denied. The game is to 11 and you must win by 2…the score is Rick/Fat Bastard 6 – MVP/Wing/Chuck 4 when the fickle finger of fate takes over. All of a sudden MVP is Joe Dumars and Wing is Vinnie Johnson and now they can’t miss while Chuck’s, may as well carry the analogy to it’s fullest and say that Chuck is the Dennis Rodman of the team, continued hounding on defense and rebounding kept them in the game, feeding his team mates for bucket after bucket. The sell out crowd of two on the porch are on their feet cheering every basket by MVP and Wing as the score becomes 10-9 in favor of the trio. It is gut check time for Rick and Turtle and they rise to the occasion executing a perfect give and go with the fat bastard setting a monster pick on Chuck…tie game 10-10. This is just the sort of basketball theater that will keep us wanting to play even when we hit 70…and oh what a finish. Turtle inbounds to Rick but Chuck playing with reckless abandon, as you would expect from someone who used to jump out of a plane with a pack that weighed more than he did, dives in front of the pass and deflects it to a wide open Wing for the score. However, while intercepting the pass, Chuck has crashed onto the cement court and taken a gouge out of his already damaged left arm. So with the score now 11-10 and with blood running down his shooting arm, Chuck, who has not made a basket yet in this game, takes a pass from MVP, dribbles twice to his left, pulls up and shoots over the outstretched hands of Rick and before the fat bastard can swat at the next dribble. In the annals of Eastside Kids pickup basketball games this game and more particularly this shot ranks among the best and there have been many memorable moments through the years. To use the parlance of the times – “Nothing but net!!”. Rick and Turtle just stand there staring at the ground in disbelief, Wing and MVP are dancing in the driveway and Chuck, red-faced from the sun, exhaustion and many beers collapses on the lawn, the grin of victory going from ear to ear.
Part 3 – Helluva Reunion
Cards, Almond Chicken and Farewell
All vestiges of physical activity having been purged from our weary bodies we once again sat down at the poker table. You would think that by this time we would have run out of things to laugh at but you would be wrong. In between discussions on Nietzsche and Hegel there were periods of where we tended to be a little silly. Again the specifics are elusive although I do remember that we concluded that both Nietzsche and Hegel were all wet….the only viable philosophical outlook according to this august group of achy but wise souls is Dudeism…as in The Big Lebowski…accordingly we will be bowling at next year’s reunion. This could be colossal especially if we can get Bert Sawyers to join us…he and Jim $6 have both rolled a 300, Jim accomplishing the feat just a few months ago…Bert on the other hand doesn’t even remember how many he has thrown.
Wing Tom’s restaurant The Golden Dragon – place will never be the same again…
In the intervening months between last year’s reunion and this one we added two more Eastside Kids to the attendance roll. Bert Sawyers, a friend all through Jackson Jr High and Cass Tech and Wing Tom, a stalwart member of the 1966 Knox Boys Softball Team and fellow Cassite. Bert was limited this year in participation however we hope to rectify that next year with the whole bowling thing. Wing jumped in full force playing football, basketball and now with the supreme sacrifice. The Golden Dragon, co-owned by Wing and his brother courageously opened it’s doors to this group of boisterous, Icy-Hot smelling, motley crew. Wing wisely put us in a room by ourselves although I’m sure he questioned his sanity a couple times as things got a mite loud(read that as Chuck). The food, all picked out by Wing was excellent…we stuffed ourselves on two huge appetizer platters and 8 or so entrees. Someone, I’m not gonna say who, turned to Wing and asked, “So are we gonna be hungry again in half an hour?” While we were there I was curious as to why it was empty on a Saturday night after all this is an award winning restaurant. My curiosity was answered as we left. All of the normal patrons were outside, it was as if they were waiting for something before they went in. Wonder what that was?
It was back to Ricks for a few more hands of poker and the inevitable sad good byes. This the 2nd Annual despite the twists, turns and delays was a rousing success. Seeing Bert and Wing for the first time in almost 40 years was worth the trip alone. Surviving the football game is the obvious comedic value answer to the question, “What surprised you most about this year’s reunion?” The more cerebral answer is that it didn’t seem like a year had gone by. We picked up so easily right where we left off last year that it couldn’t have been 52 weeks ago we last saw each other. Another thing that wasn’t so much a surprise as it was a revelation sort of. I thought that last year we had too much down time. Time where we just kinda sat and tried to figure out what to do next. Well we had the same periods of what are we gonna do next this year…and you know what? I didn’t mind at all…was kind of funny; someone would ask that question/we would go off on another 5 minute sidetrack/someone would ask the question/yada yada yada. Not sure how we ever decided what to do next, probably ran out of beer…at least that got us to the liquor store.
My last view of Chuck before I drifted off to sleep that night was him sitting on his bed, in his underwear, polishing off his final beer for the day. Don’t know how many he had…somewhere between 14-18 if I had to hazard a guess. I’m sure he’ll let me know. I have my alarm set for 4:00, want to be on the road by 4:30 or so…yikes that’s early and only 4 hours from now.
My last view of Chuck as I pass by his bed on the way to the door is of someone in an almost fetal position sleeping the sleep of the fuzzy headed. I told him I would give him a peck on the cheek when I left.
My last view of anything significant in the room as I look back before closing the door is a bloodied bandage lying on the floor by the bathroom door. Gee I hope Chuck didn’t bloody the linen.
A One Question Pop Quiz
During the description of happenings in Rick’s backyard I mention Chuck’s love for President Obama and Vice President Biden. Please select the best answer in this multiple choice, bonus point quiz.
- This is very true…Chuck has finally seen the error of his right wing whacko ways.
- This is very false…this is just a fine example of an author having fun.