Saturday, September 23, 2006

80 Hour Man Takes Command

Sorry about becoming the invisible blogger. I haven’t had much time to write or read in between my suddenly hectic job and more-complicated-than-usual personal life. Sometimes it’s not easy being Schprock. I hope to come round to your neck of the woods real soon to leave some comments, and in that way dispel those alien-abduction rumors circulating about me.

Last Tuesday I attended a Red Sox game with my esteemed colleague, 80 Hour Man. Now, 80 Hour Man has, from time to time, been roughed up a little in this space, but today I have come to praise him. He did good and I want to tell you all about it.

Our tickets were for seats in the extreme right field section of Fenway Park, over to the fair side of the Pesky Pole. Not far from us was that nether world known as the bleachers, and you could, from time to time, catch the strong odor of alcohol and the unhealthy reek of many unwashed bodies wafting over to us from that direction. Perhaps it was this stench of drunkenness and depravity that had its influence on our more cultured section, I’m not sure, but whether it was the bad breeze or just or our bad luck, the two ticket holders who seated themselves behind us began to loudly demonstrate to our entire section the behavior of an early evolutionary stage in man’s development, perhaps the one just after our ancestors stopped using their knuckles to walk. They became boisterous and profane. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not the prissy type who gets shocked by a little boorish behavior, and sometimes the loud, coarse ones you hear in a crowd can often make up for their crudity and lack of social grace by saying some funny things. Not so with these guys. Despite being over 21— as shown by their ability to legally purchase beer — their humor and intellectual capability was stuck somewhere between grades 5 and 6. The word “fuckin’” had to be in every sentence they uttered; for instance, ballplayers they didn’t like were “fuckin’ homos,” an epithet I haven’t heard since junior high. There was absolutely no wit to anything they said. Believe me, Biff from Back to the Future seemed a Rhodes scholar compared to these two knuckleheads.

At one point the louder of the two — the alpha male if you will — bought a bag of peanuts. As he ate them, he started tossing the shells at the fans seated some five or six rows in front of us. Finally, a man of middle eastern descent turned and glared at him. This drew from our intellectual friend this comment: “What the fuck are you lookin’ at, Taliban?” and then he commenced, from time to time, to throw peanut shells directly at him.

80 Hour Man and I looked at each other rolled our eyes. At one point I said, “Where’s Clint Eastwood when you need him?” I started to cast about in my mind for something I could do that would a) save this night from becoming a disaster and b) not involve grave physical harm to myself. I thought of discreetly leaving to find security to report them. But before I could formulate any concrete plan, 80 Hour Man turned to Alpha Male and said, “Throw one more of those and I’m calling security.”

Alpha Male said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Why not?” asked 80 Hour Man.

“Because I’ll punch your fuckin’ head in.”

I could tell as Alpha Male said that he was feeling a little put on the spot. There wasn’t a whole lot of conviction behind the statement.

“I wouldn’t try that if I were you,” said 80 Hour Man.

“You’re not so tough.”

“We’re all here to enjoy a ball game.”

“So why do you have to spoil it for the rest of us?” said Alpha Male.

Then he and his buddy got really quiet. No more peanut shells were thrown. A minute later they got up from their seats and walked away. And that was the last we saw of them.

So that was all it took to rid ourselves of two bullies. I give 80 Hour Man all the credit in the world for standing up to those morons. And the truth is, 80 Hour Man does look kind of tough. He looks like he could handle himself in a fight. He’s kind of burly, his lined brow has a distinctive, prominent scar that runs crosswise against its furrows, and his blue collar manner of speaking is done in a naturally resonant, forceful voice. I wouldn’t screw with him.

And as far is those two miscreants are concerned, I think I more pity them than anything else. It looks like it will take them a long, long time to wise up. I doubt very much their tough guy posturing will take them far in this world, and what I saw of their intelligence is not at all promising. They were simply a pair of very unpleasant clowns. It was pathetic really.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who’s Your Favorite Beatle?

A friend of mine once claimed there exists an entire branch of psychology based on who your favorite Beatle is. While that is very likely not true, it ought to be. What better way to classify one’s personality than to determine whether or not you’re a Ringo-person, a Paul-person, a George-person or a John-person? As a therapist, imagine the thrill of diagnosing a Ringonian with latent Paulistic tendencies, or a Johnoid-Georgophrenic suffering from a Yoko complex? Instead of asking for someone’s astrological sign at a nightclub, why not ask who their favorite Beatle is? Is it John, the smart one? Or is it Paul, the cute one? Or how about Ringo, the funny one? Or George, the shy one? So much information can come from that one choice.

Growing up, my favorite Beatle was John. I thought he was the natural leader of the group; I felt he was clever and witty, his singing style was really cool, and he was the handsomest of all the Beatles. I liked all his transformations, from the fresh-faced mop top as he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to the brooding, politically-active poet with the funky round glasses. He had an edge. He was the wise kid in your algebra class who never looked at the board and doodled in the margins of his textbook, the one the teacher was a little afraid of, the type your parents would really prefer you not to hang out with.

I’m thinking of the Beatles because last Saturday night I went to a concert performed by a group called Beatlejuice, a band which plays nothing but Beatles songs and does them surpassingly well. The front man is Brad Delp, former lead singer of the rock group Boston, an extremely charismatic guy who can imitate both Paul’s and John’s singing voices. The five-man group also features a keyboard man whose synthesizer can replicate all the studio effects the Beatles did in their later albums, such as Sgt. Pepper’s and the white album. And they don’t even attempt to look like the Beatles, something I appreciate (they’re all in their fifties anyway). Their appeal crosses all demographic lines — indeed, that night there were as many people under twenty as there were over sixty. I was a little disconcerted when the octogenarian sitting next to me whipped her bra onto the stage and yelled, “I love you, Ringo!” but other than that it was a hell of a show. Last Saturday was the third time I saw Beatlejuice.

The next day I found myself in “Beatles-mode” and dug out an old VHS tape the missus bought one time called The Beatles Unauthorized, a 51-minute compilation of old, black and white film clips showing a couple of Beatles concerts, several of their press conferences, and various news and TV show segments. The sound quality was extremely poor and the cinematography was generally on a par with how your great-grandfather might handle a camcorder. It showed the Beatles’ first concert in the U.S. (which was broadcast on closed-circuit TV in theaters) in Washington, DC, on a small, spare stage set in the middle of an auditorium ringed by screaming teenagers. Ringo’s drum set was placed on a tiny, round platform that was designed to rotate, so in between songs the lads could spin it 180 degrees to face that portion of the audience they previously had their backs to. Every time Ringo beat on the drums the platform wobbled like a teacup perched precariously on a bony knee. There were a few boxy amplifiers set to either side of Ringo’s drums like you might expect to see at a high school dance, two microphone stands, their guitars, and that was it. Just the boys in their Beatle suits, Beatle haircuts and Beatle boots. You could tell they couldn’t even hear what they were doing all that well; they more shouted than sung. And meanwhile every screeching adolescent girl in the joint achieved catharsis at a decibel level previously thought unattainable by humans.

You really get the idea from watching that tape that the Beatles were just kids made of flesh and bone, not the gods we thought they were. They seemed so frail and unprotected on that bare stage. When they had poor Ringo nearly throw out his tonsils singing “I wanna be your lover, baby, I wanna be you man” in all that din, I thought of how sore his throat must have been the next day and how hot and uncomfortable he looked in that suit, whacking away at his drums on a fragile, unsteady platform. Being a Beatle must have been completely nuts.

So who is your favorite Beatle? And why? And no claiming you don’t know anything about the Beatles, because that’s like saying you never heard of Mozart.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Been Busy, Man

It’s gotten pretty gosh darn busy at work, folks, so I’ve had to take my blog-generating synaptic junctions offline to reroute emergency mental power to the old job. It’s an onerous thing to ask of my four brain cells, all this effort and thinking, but I do get money for it, money which I can then turn around to use to stimulate the economy with, so working a little harder and blogging a little less can sometimes be good for me and good for the country. So the next time you hear some positive news about the gross national product or the consumer price index, think of good old Mr. Schprock working hard for America.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lord Hamlet at the Ball Park: The Lost Scene

Another “lost scene” from Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, has been discovered, this time behind a pickle barrel in Grimsby’s Grocery and Fish Bait Store just off the interstate. As with Lord Hamlet at the Deli, its authenticity is in question, but all are in agreement on one thing: it smells to high heavens! You be the judge:

Act III, Scene ii, the box seat section directly behind home plate at Fenway Park

Enter Hamlet, Ophelia, Horatio, Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, courtiers and attendants

HAMLET: Have we our seats located, my good Horatio?

HORATIO: Ay, my lord, or so our tickets stubs declare.

CLAUDIUS: Of this game “baseball” that the multitudes so love,
I will ask thee straight, my cousin Hamlet:
Doth it merit such devotion as this
That the rabble should squeak and gibber
In terms wild and most passionate
As if their very souls were entwined in the outcome?

HAMLET: Indeed, thou mayest rely well upon their devotion.
Baseball is, as t’were, a pageant of life,
Wherein one may see in miniature
Affairs of great pith and moment
Which daily rock this sore distracted globe.
Each team is, in allegiance to its hue, a warlike nation,
Each player a soldier or statesman,
Each contest a battle pitting the ambition and
Aspirations of one country ’gainst the other.
Yea, the world is a ball field,
And all the men in it merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
Their times at bat, their RBIs and their slugging percentages.
In his career, a ballplayer plays many roles,
His designations being seven.
First we see the rookie,
Uncouth and and hazed by his teammates,
Desperate to stay where fortune hath delivered him;
Next comes the sophomore, his talent tried,
His spot in the batting order assured;
Free agency then follows,
Wherein, according to his addition,
Great remuneration may come a ballplayer’s way;
Then comes the ten-and-five player,
Who hath ten years in the league played
And five of those with the same team, and
Holds great sway in how management may treat him;
His powers declining, the next stage
Finds a ballplayer the DH or pinch hitter,
His value on defense much diminished;
Then our ballplayer,
Should his wisdom and people skills prevail,
Becomes manager
Marshaling his troops and sending them forth,
Deciding when to steal, when to
Hit-and-run and when to change pitchers
The game and season slave to his word.
His last designation is that of bench coach,
The ballplayer’s big manly voice,
Turning toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
The team, but babes to him now,
Listen to his wise saws and oft-repeated tales of times past
With knowing winks and rolling eyes
As he lapses by stages into mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

OPHELIA: O my lord! — but look what hath appeared before you!

HORATIO: Start my eyes! ’Tis an apparition from beyond our world
Or my mind much deceives me!

HAMLET: Is it my father? Is it the king?

HORATIO: A king he be, or sultan as some say
Bedecked not in robes of purple
But in flannel pinstripe.

GHOST: List! List, list, O list!

HAMLET: I attend, noble spirit, say on!

GHOST: I am he who was the Bambino
Whose potent bat of wood could
Send a seaméd horsehide sphere
Punching through the blue welkin
And into the reaches of eagles.
One season did I launch that bleachéd orb
Some sixty times past the field of play
Where no ballplayer could touch it
And trotted with mincing step
Round the diamond to great acclaim.
Four and thirty years didst my record thus stand
’Til another knight, who like I in pinstripe clad,
Bested my feat by one in terms most commendable.
But now, but now — I can hardly speak of it—

HAMLET: Tell us, O ghost, I beseech you — say what grieves you!

GHOST: Three usurpers — not men, but augmentations of men,
Not as God designed them — who through a forgéd process hath
In exchange for their souls and honor and consciences clean
Transformed themselves from laboratory rats to Hercules all.

HAMLET: My prophetic soul! ’Tis as I suspected!
He speaks of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds!

GHOST: Sosa, but so-so; McGuire, but a liar; Bonds, but a con…

HORATIO: An honest and clear-sighted ghost he is, my lord, I’ll warrant it.

HAMLET: But what is to be done, O Bambino, I prithee tell us.

GHOST: I charge thee to compel the commissioner —
Who, though his name be Selig,
Hath not sea legs for these tempest-tossed times —
To hang an asterisk by their names;
And this asterisk should be a large one,
Magenta in color like an envenomed wound,
Unsightly to behold, a smirch upon the page;
And in token of which I have already lifted my curse
Upon this team whose crimson hose I once wore,
And I name as my inheritor Big Papi,
For his strength comes from rice and beans
Much like mine did from hot dogs and beer.

HAMLET: I swear I shall bring all I have to bear upon this quest.

GHOST: Remember . . . remember . . . an asterisk…

HAMLET: O what a wrong there is to be righted
When honor is stained and integrity blighted
Onward and from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!