Saturday, April 27, 2013

Game Time


Game Time


Academy Awards season has long meant an “Oscar Hunt” for me—putting up a clipping of the nominee list up on the fridge and then hunting down as many of the movies as possible. I remember going to the movies with my best friend Larry in early 1970 to see a movie nominated for ten academy awards, a wonderful historical costume drama, “Anne of the Thousand Days.” It was playing as the main event of a double feature with “Goodbye, Columbus” at the humble El Camino Real in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco.

The movie was rated “M” for “mature audiences” which meant that Larry’s mother (known lovingly as ‘Ma’ to one and all) had to get out of her car and sign us in. My initial reaction, of course, was humiliation. “M” is the precursor of today’s “PG-13” after all, and we were fourteen! Ma’s raucous laughter defused by hormonal outrage and I reverted to my Oscar fever mania.

“Anne” was a piece of cake for me, the nuances of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s torrid history already having thoroughly dissected by me. “Goodbye, Columbus,” the B feature, was another story --an unknown quantity to me and my first introduction to Philip Roth. The vagaries of upper-middle class twenty-something Jews in 1950’s New Jersey? That was foreign territory. Before you start thinkin’ that “Yeah, uh-hunh—the WASP didn’t get it,” please note that Larry is quite Jewish indeed and as clueless as I about  Brenda Patimkin’s (Ali McGraw) machinations and Richard Benjamin’s whining. OK, I’ll concede that Larry is a California “Reformed-Reformed Jew” as he says, but still.

The pertinent subplot of “Goodbye, Columbus” involved Brenda’s brother Ron  and his inability to move on from his college glory days at Ohio State, epitomized by his incessant replaying of an a album commemorating his days as a Buckeye on the Columbus campus. Every night Ron shuts himself away in his room (walls slathered in Ohio State memorabilia), and we hear the soundtrack repeatedly ending with the words “So we say goodbye to the red and gray…goodbye, Columbus, goodbye.”

The silly-yet-somewhat-sad and pathetic image of an alumnus wallowing in his Buckeye regalia long after graduation was forever solidified in my mind as the epitome of the over-aged fan. Someone I never wanted to be.

Well, here I am, in San Diego for a weekend planned around a visit to Petco Park to watch my San Francisco Giants take on the San Diego Padres, adult men playing that wonderful boys’ game.  I have Giants regalia packed in bags, waiting for tonight’s main event. Forgive me, Ron Patimkin, I am you.

OK, OK, It’s not quite that bad. I don’t worship the jocks that play for my home team. I do enjoy the game and enjoy being a fan—NOT a fanatic. Almost every piece of Giants-themed gear I own was purchased for me by my wife. Of course, 90% of every stitch of clothing I own was purchased by my lovely Melissa. It makes her happy to buy me clothes. After 28 years, you are expecting this leopard to change his spots? I’m just saying.

I have attended sporting events in nearly every major city I have visited in the USA. It’s part of my “when in Rome…” mantra. It is a wonderful way to be in the moment and connect with rhythms of the city I’m visiting, to get a sense of place. I even took two weeks off three years ago to attend games at six ballparks with my buddy Mike. Before you judge, please note that I also layered in three halls of fame, one Frank Lloyd Wright house and a trip to Gettysburg. And a quick stopover at the ball field that hosts the Little League World Series. Does that make me a middle-aged adolescent unwilling to put away my childish things? I ask you.

Yes, yes I am a Giants season ticket holder, too--but that ‘s just a fun excuse to entertain friends and enjoy going to The City. I am a mature man who acts his age and likes baseball,--honest. My real obsession is the movies…I mean, have you seen “Anne of the Thousand Days?” Richard Burton is at his very best, and Geneveieve Bujold had the performance of a lifetime. …Goodbye, Hollywood, goodbye…

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The First Time

You always remember your first is 4/24, 24 years to the day I became a father for the first time. His due date was still three weeks off, the baby shower ended only 24 hours before. But nature called in an unexpected and painful sort way. The classic term for her condition was toxemia, or more precisely preeclampsia; bottom line, Mom's body was saying no to the pregnancy. The situation called for Plan B: Induction.

The hallmark of toxemia is high blood pressure. My wife received "Cadillac care," but the process was difficult in spite of her medical team's efforts. Once laboring reached a critical point where the size of the baby's head was the immovable object, the mother's valiant pushing proved to be a resistible force. More intervention was required. The hospital was short-handed that night, so the F.O.B. (father of the baby, aka: your humble narrator) had to roll up his sleeves and help, too.

One thing they never made clear in parenting classes was the reality of a forceps delivery. "Don't worry, they're only used if necessary..." Right. I knew what forceps looked like, because they showed a picture in that class of a rather harmless pair of salad tongs. What appeared in that labor room was a massive metal set of jaws that I would categorize as a "farm implement." Intellectually, I knew that what I was looking at must be forceps, yet I couldn't reconcile their size with that itty bitty photograph.

There is some disagreement as to which was worse, the sight of my progeny's head all squished betwixt the blades of that post-hole digger or the mug shot of the baby after the delivery. "He looks like Gumby fought Pokey and lost," I was wont to say, trying to cope with the memory of the farm implement's handiwork. He recovered, remarkably quickly. Within a couple of days, his head reformed, the swelling went down, the marks disappeared. He looked...normal. Like a newborn should.

We named the baby Alexander, "leader of men." A more beautiful baby never graced this earth, a happier baby has never been heard. Now that twenty-four years have slipped by, he's grown to be 6'5", a blue-eyed handsome devil two years out of UCLA, just admitted to graduate nursing school at Georgetown University. I guess he'll be learning how to wield some "farm implements" himself pretty soon.