tis here that truth is known

Professor Coldheart’s Keys to the Game
Ravens games don’t usually get picked up by New England stations. I could go to a sports bar and ask someone to switch a TV over, but this doesn’t always go over well. Also, it ties me to that particular bar for three hours and twenty dollars worth of drinks. Of course, this would not have been an issue this past Sunday – when the Ravens played the Patriots at GIllette Stadium – except that I would have been the only guy in the bar in a Joe Flacco jersey. Even the usual crew who I can plead to come watch a Baltimore game with me (Fraley, Hawver, Michelle) would have spurned my treachery.

Streaming Internet radio saved the day, though the only station I can reliably get online is Washington DC’s Air America affiliate. They do great game day coverage, picking up the WBAL broadcasters live: a more competent crew than four of the last five Monday Night Football lineups. So I sigh when Air America does its “roll call” every hour, running down a list of local businesses that want to advertise their progressive values. A slew of farmer’s markets, massage therapists and small law offices, announced in alternating sing-song.

My Ravens played their hearts out this past Sunday, leaving two men on the field – Jared Gaither and Brendan Oyanbedejo – and keeping it close throughout. Joe Flacco played like the Tom Brady of four years ago, going 8-for-11 on third down. And Baltimore shut down New England’s running game. Unfortunately, several bad ref calls, as well as competitive play by Brady, Maroney and Welker, cost Baltimore the game.

I still submit that the Patriots winning this game earned them less cred than the Ravens lost by losing. The Ravens are now a 3-1 team, eminently respectable with a sophomore QB and coach, and stayed within one touchdown of a well-favored team. The Patriots clawed their way to 3-1 in a close game today, still not having won by enough of a margin to reaffirm the world’s faith in Brady Christ. The power dynamics of dealing with low-status rivals plague even the canniest diplomats.

Hail, Alma Mater
I saw my first (and probably only) Boston College home game of the season this past Saturday, watching the Eagles scramble past FSU. Casey O. and I screamed in frustration at Spaziani’s prevent defense, stared at each other in shock when BC scored and tried to keep the fans around us classy.

Limited success on that front: a BC Superfan got in a shoving match with a Seminoles fan one section over. Two ambitious, collegiate pushes: both arms to the flat of the chest, no follow-up punch. Stadium security came by and summoned the cops. I didn’t hear the ensuing discussion, but I saw the Seminoles fan shaking his head. The cops left without ejecting the BC pugilist, who slumped into a seat two rows away next to his embarrassed girlfriend and stared somberly at the field for the remaining quarter and a half, his dignity shredded beyond repair.

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and I don’t know if you don’t know your better half don’t act right

Saturday started off early with some tumultuous and epic gaming that ran until 4:15 PM. Afterward, Serpico and I took the Red Line to Park Street. Underground, we ran into Kate C., waiting for a train of her own to whisk her off to Carmina Burana. “Did you know Bruce Campbell’s in town tonight?” she squealed. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“You’re dating Ryan,” I reminded her. “I presumed you would have picked it up through osmosis.”

The Green Line and a short walk carried us to Boston College, where we found James F., Tom O’ and Casey grilling in a light downpour. I ate a rather watery slice of homemade pizza until Casey finished a new batch of kielbasa. We took turns heaping derision on Greg W., who had elected to avoid the annual football game against BC’s biggest rival because of a mild downpour. James raised Greg’s voicemail on his cell. “The weather’s fine,” he yelled, as rain caused the greasy grill to spout flames into Tom’s poncho. “You still have time to get here!”

Serpico and I wandered to Shea Field, the “elite” tailgating section, to try and find some friends of ours. Entering Shea in the first place requires you to cut through a sea of humanity and get your ticket inspected; this keeps out the riff-raff who would otherwise take the slowest train in Boston to BC, drink in a cramped corner of the parking lot, and then leave without seeing a football game. Past the security guards, we entered a sucking mudhole of humanity. Rows of parked SUVs funneled fans into tiny, filthy corridors. Our shoes squelched as we trudged through a crowd of hundreds, craning our necks desperately for our friends. I can’t imagine it’d be any better on a sunny day instead of a rainy evening: picture a crowd twice as dense with temperatures thirty degrees higher. We gave up after fifteen minutes and slogged back to campus. “I just bought these at the Saucony outlet,” Serpico said of his shoes.

We normally have a little breathing room in our excellent benches, a mere 15 rows back from the turf. But for the BC / Notre Dame game, every seat in the stadium sells and fills. We squeezed in asscheek to asscheek, surrounded by more out of town fans than usual. Tom did not slacken in his usual torrent of hatred, calling Charlie Weis a “fucking baby” about six minutes into the first quarter (for what, I can not recall). Serpico sporadically abused a lone Notre Dame fan six rows down from us, whose only crime (at the moment) was echoing the ref’s “out of bounds” gesture after a particularly bad Chris Crane pass. “What is that?” Serpico asked. “Is that a thing you do? Do you travel to other people’s stadiums and make gestures like that? Is that fun for you?”

A pair of drunk Notre Dame fans got ejected for sitting in the wrong seats. Despite teetering ominously, staring at the events staff in a drunken glaze and waving what looked like a Marine Corps ID card around, the argument did not go their way. Other than those jackasses, I tried to save my abuse for the opposing team (“nice one, Clausen!”), rather than the opposing team’s fans, who came all this way in the rain to see their team lose. I mostly succeeded. Mostly.

“If you get us in a fight,” I promised James, “I am not going to back you up. I’m throwing you all the way under that bus.”

Boston College beat Notre Dame, 17 to 0 – their sixth straight win over the Irish and the first blanking in … years? Decades? Something like that. Even though the game ended in the last four minutes, I stayed until the final strains of “Hail Alma Mater,” then followed Serpico to the Reservoir station. We took a weary train ride downtown, running into Michelle McN and her friends on the way.

he’s walking around like he’s number one

After the final Gorefest show on Friday, we disassembled the set. I sum it up in one sentence but it took a little over three hours of solid labor. Mopping up two weeks’ worth of fake blood. Striking the backdrop (I punched a hole through the canvas on a dare). Detaching the stage into component pieces and stacking it in a corner. More mopping. Wiping blood off the walls and ceiling. Hauling plywood to the dumpster. Cleaning off the seats. More mopping. Bobby sent us home at 3:00.

I gave Misch a lift to the party at Mike M’s in Somerville, since she had to meet up with her travel companions for ImprovBoston’s trip to Tokyo. The party was still going at 3:30, as Mike’s parties tend to, so I chatted with Sasha, Dave S. and a coworker of Robert’s dressed as Holly Golightly. I called it quits around 5:00, driving back to Davis to sit under a hot shower and let pink stuff stream out of my hair. I entertained brief fantasies of staying up until sunrise but passed out regardless.

Dragged myself out of bed to meet the parents at the Marriott near MIT on Saturday, 10:45 or so. We walked around Cambridge and the MIT campus, passing the MIT Football team warming up for their big game. They warm up to a mixtape of various 80s hits, including “Don’t Stop Believin’.” No joke.

The shaggy hair must make me look courteous, because several folks asked me for directions that afternoon – the last, a woman in her 40s in Clemson garb on the B Line. “Boston College,” she addressed me as, pointing to my sweatshirt, “which stop would I get off at for Mary Ann’s?” I told her (Chestnut Hill Ave; walk down the hill; make a left) and she relayed the information to peers of similar outfits and age. What half a dozen Clemson alumna/parents would be doing at Mary Ann’s except trolling for 18-year-olds, I couldn’t tell you.

My parents met most of the BC tailgating regulars outside the parking garage, where Casey hustled over some kielbasa. Talk turned to Brady Smith, an alumnus of my high school and a BC football player until very recently. “What did Brady Smith get suspended for?” I asked Casey.

A touch of the rape.”

“Right.”

BC played some heartbreaking ball on Saturday, dangling hope in our faces in a 27-21 loss to the Clemson Tigers. Defense and special teams played their hearts out – several key interceptions, a blocked punt run back for a touchdown – but the offense once again failed to deliver. I am frankly tired of Chris Crane’s shitty excuse for passing. We lingered for hot dogs and burgers after the game, then I got my parents home.

nobody’s right ’till somebody’s wrong

My weekend started properly at about 11:00 AM on Friday. I looked up from some proofing to find the Chief Operations Officer grinning at my desk. “I owe you a game,” I said.

“Yes, you do. Are you free?”

“I’m free right now,” I said, so we went to the break room to play our long overdue Round 2 of the annual Internet Inc. Pool Tournament.

I will shock no one by saying that I lost to my manager’s director’s boss and last year’s champion. I shocked myself, however, by making a run of it. I took my time and thought about the shots I had to make, rather than winging my way through it, and completed several shots I wouldn’t have thought in my range. Of course, the difference between a good player and a skilled amateur comes from grace under pressure. The COO made several shots when it counted; I missed several shots that I needed to make. Still, a slightly firmer touch on my last pocket shot and I’d have pulled off the upset of the century.

Afterwards, my team and several neighbors went out drinking at Green Briar in Brighton. The daily specials advertised nachos, chicken parm pizza, and “cool 80s with Taint.” After trying our hardest to parse this last one, we caved and asked the waitress. “It’s an 80s cover band,” she explained. “Called Taint.”

“And it’s in reference to …”

“Exactly what you think it is.”

Mike G. from work had some folks over to his place in Brighton Center. I played a round of Beirut, then hung out on the porch with the smokers, learning that some otherwise cool folks have a remarkably deep love of Wings. As in, Paul McCartney’s leavings.

I ended the night at Common Ground, where a small crowd surfaced for Kim’s birthday – Greg W. and Beth, Melissa, Katie H., RJ, Drew, Dan S. and Serpico – but somehow Marie and I were the only ones who danced. Why pay a $4 cover to to drink in a place that’s too loud to have a conversation? I don’t get it. I introduced Marie and Matthew and we all rocked the dance floor until 1:30 or so.

Saturday belonged to Gorefest set-building. The girls proved remarkably handy with power tools – Monica running the jigsaw to cut out several sheets of Masonite, Liz C. scampering under the risers to drill and bolt them together. I supplied brute force and dumb weight as needed. The stage itself looks phenomenal if you haven’t seen it already. Get your Gorefest tickets soon – we’ve already sold 300 seats over our 10-night run. We will sell out every show before the first one opens. I will tell you until you believe me.

Fighting off a cold and debating my choice the whole way, I took the train to Boston College to watch the anticipated BC/VTech game. BC’s football team, in the finest tradition of BC superfans, showed up 10 minutes late to the game, allowing VTech a commanding lead in the first quarter. Then they turned on the heat, relying on sloppy play by Tyrod Taylor to carry the Eagles to victory.

I go to these games to socialize as much as to cheer, of course. I enjoyed catching up with Joe C., fighting the good fight against juvenile offenders in New Jersey (he flashed his DA badge for us on request). J Lee made the trip out from Worcester and showed up already stammering drunk, asking me three times where in Somerville I lived (“Davis Square? That’s the most happening square in Somerville”). And I met Lauren, a/k/a Toast, a CCE alumna and BC grad, class of 2008. It’s weird, meeting people who graduated in May of this year and realizing I occupy, in their chronology, the place that people like Ryan Howe occupy in mine. I’m an old, old man.

in the streets I’m well known like the number man

I went out drinking with coworkers on Friday – George, A.A., Z. and a handful of others. The notion of enjoying myself with the people I work with, especially outside the context of the office, still hasn’t settled in my brain yet. We watched the Phillies knock one out against the Dodgers, then stuck around for a bit of the Sox game. A bearded guy played acoustic guitar during commercial breaks; George got his business card.

I needed a night of dancing to take the edge off the week, so I called an all-play at the Common Ground and a small crew answered: Mike P., Flannery and some friends of theirs. As it turned out, BC alumna Meghan W. and Marie C. also had a crew of their own present; a massive dance party quickly ensued. The BC kids were largely CCE vets, as well as one or two current CCE members. It’s odd thinking of myself as some dimly known figure from the ancient days, which I am to anyone who cares. It’s also odd that people born in 1986 can drink without legal hindrance, as some of those kids clearly were.

Saturday began the first in my series of constant rehearsals this week, as we all showed up at ImprovBoston to warble through some songs and run the show once. Don S., the show’s typical director, poked his head in on several occasions to watch key songs and scenes. I spent about an hour afterward sifting through used clothes at the Garment District and the Davis Sq. Goodwill in search of a Halloween costume, with no luck. I may end up buying an old coat and a few cans of spray paint.

Jodi texted me an emergency request for carbs and Red Sox, so we rendezvoused at Joshua Tree. We eventually lost patience with the game night crowd – “Standing Room Townie,” you might call it – and shifted to Orleans, where we caught up through the 9th inning with her friends Jeff and Armando. Jodi wolfed down most of a plate of chicken rigatoni, in preparation for her half-marathon on Sunday, but wouldn’t finish her Guinness. She did not get to join the Clean Glass Club.

Did you know that the Hong Kong in Harvard Sq hosts more than just an unpredictable stand-up night on Sundays? That the upstairs turns into a trashy college-kid rave, complete with Top 40 songs, glow sticks and $4 Budweiser, on Saturday nights? Neither did I! What have I been doing all this time? I gave Jeff and Armando a ride there, then stuck around to dance with them and some of their friends for a bit. A shirtless guy in tuxedo pants waved an inflatable sledgehammer on stage while Harvard girls twirled neon bracelets and Limbo’d under pool noodles. At some point I lost patience and wandered back to my car.

I had been keeping myself up with the use of 5-Hour Energy Shots on Friday and Saturday night, since following beers with niacin megadoses can’t be that bad for you. As a result, I started to crash pretty hard on Sunday afternoon, around hour five of the Gorefest dance rehearsal. Skipping breakfast probably didn’t help. Or dinner the night before. Or eating that fudgy cupcake filled with peanut butter, but come on! Fudgy cupcake! Filled with peanut butter!

The entertaining conclusion: I missed the Davis Square stop on the subway ride home and had to turn around at Alewife and passed out for thirty brief minutes when I dragged my ass back to my apartment. Regaining consciousness, I somehow heated up a pizza in the oven without setting the building on fire and ate it, along with some garlic toast and cottage cheese, at a reasonable dinnertime hour. The nap and the dinner combined to give me a second wind around 11:30 PM, just about the time I wanted to go to bed.

I think I have some normal weekends on the calendar for November. Maybe later.

she never been to texas, never heard of king kong

On Friday Mariateresa, one of my dearest friends in the world, had a 5-hour stopover in Boston en route to Paris (her final stop being Trieste). I picked her up at Logan and drove her down to Faneuil Hall, where we had lunch at an outdoor cafe. “I haven’t had lobster in so long,” she cooed. Yes, it is possible to coo with a mouthful of lobster; MT can pull it off.

Finding myself with an early evening, I rescued Marie C. from her office and drove her back to Davis Square. We ate Chipotle and watched the last few episodes of Hustle S1. Let me again express my amazement at this Swiss watch of a show – how it consistently and precisely pulls off things that the average movie can’t get right half the time.

Saturday I got up early, threw my BC Superfan Alumnus tee on over a long-sleeved shirt, and joined Greg W on the subway. When we changed over at Park St, a person of indeterminate gender sat down across from us. If female, she looked an awful lot like Meat Loaf; if male, he couldn’t quite pull off the Sesame Street T-shirt he wore. This person rode until about the Warren St. stop on the B Line, then got off.

Saturday was perfect grilling weather and Casey had acquired some choice franks and burgers, courtesy of Hilltop. We lounged about on the lawn just outside the Robsham parking garage, drank beer before noon, and talked about BC’s recruiting prospects. “I’m excited about Emory Blake,” Serpico volunteered.

“Emory Blake?” I asked. “Didn’t he write a series of moderately successful pulp novels in the 30s? Like The Spider or Air Aces?”

The BC game turned into a nailbiter when quarterback Chris Crane failed to capitalize on UCF’s ineptitude. When he wasn’t throwing balls into the stands – seriously, two consecutive goal-line passes never even broke the plane of the end zone – he was tossing picks left and right. We developed a sudden but lasting fandom for Montel Harris and backup QB Dominique Davis. The final score, 34-7, does not indicate how close the game was after the first half.

Later that evening, I met Michelle, Victoria and Grace at the Burren for a quick drink. Michelle’s been a big booster for her goddaughter’s soccer games, apparently, and Grace has started working out again. Or trying to. Meanwhile, if Vickie does anything other than work 90-hour shifts at Fenway, I haven’t heard about it.

oh, how I burn for you

This weekend’s theme: overheating.

I caught up with Grace on Friday, taking her to Redbones for Somerville’s best barbecue. She ate about three-quarters of her pulled pork sandwich, thwacking me on the head whenever I stopped paying attention to her anecdotes (“ow, Indian wedding, right”) and making fun of my beer selection back home. She’s a real charmer, that one. “You’re a doctor now,” I reminded her. “You need to learn to play golf and start making bad investments in real estate.”

Saturday I got up early and met Greg to take the train from Davis to BC. Our conversation proceeded in fits and starts, weighed down by the overcast sky, until the subject turned to BC’s endowment. Then we were off and running. As the B Line passed the service garage next to Evergreen Cemetary we became entrepreneurs. “That’s the only building between 2000 Comm Ave [the future site of BC’s newest dorm] and the rest of campus,” I said. “Let’s buy it and turn it into a pizza joint.”

“We might have some trouble getting it up to code,” Greg observed. “It being a former gas station, next to a cemetery.”

“So we spend a few weekends bleaching it.”

Aaron and Serpico had arrived early to stake out a corner parking spot in the BC parking garage, and Casey O’ and James F. arrived shortly thereafter with some emergency Blue Ribbon. The weather held together long enough for us to have grilled, so Aaron regaled us with stories of his mother’s secret barbecue recipe while we chowed on spicy sausage and chicken wings. And plenty of cornbread. A convivial glow spread over my face, aided by the Miller Lite, and I grinned from ear to ear.

BC then did their level best to tarnish that glow, losing embarrassingly to the rambling wrecks from Georgia Tech. They matched Georgia Tech turnover for turnover, but failed to complete and fell apart entirely in the second half. “Is that Crane’s third interception?” Casey O’ asked at one point of BC’s beleaguered quarterback.

“No, that’s his second interception,” I corrected. “You’re thinking of the fumble from earlier.” To the field: “Way to go, Ichabod!

The promised downpours never materialized, so I walked to Cleveland Circle with a useless poncho and the beginnings of a sunburn. Fortunately, back in Davis, Marie had some leftover homemade ice cream and some Dexter. I watched some Season 2 episodes with her, guest starring British stunner Jaime Murray, at which point I had to introduce Marie to Hustle (also starring Murray). Yay media.

I tried to go swimming at the BSC on Sunday morning, but did not take into account the aquarobics class taking up the open end of the pool. Rather than sit on the deck with my toes in the water and wait for an open lane, I showered and waited for the sauna to heat up. It never quite did, to my disappointment, so I got back in the car to drive home.

Turning from Mt. Auburn St to Brattle St, I noticed that my Check Engine light had gone on. I decided to ignore it – as I usually do – until wisps of white smoke started to trickle from my hood. Pulling over in the suburbs of Cambridge, I popped the hood and watched the engine tick from the heat. Smoke hissed from the coolant line along the engine’s perimeter. A man walking his dog and a Cambridge cop both asked if I needed help; I shrugged and they moved along. Running the heat on full blast to vent the engine, per Marie’s suggestion, I slowly idled home.

Back in Davis, I did laundry, ate lunch, and refilled my engine’s suspiciously low coolant reserves. I found a radio station that streamed the Ravens game online and listened while folding T-shirts. Joe Flacco had an auspicious debut, controlling the ball and letting the legendary Ravens D tear up Cincinnati. A win over the Bengals isn’t quite a litmus test, but it’s a good way to start the season.

I got word that Jonathon Katz would be doing a set at ImprovBoston that evening, so I went down early to make sure I got in. He followed a typical amateur improv troupe – you know the kind, two funny people and six mediocre cold cuts – and two stand-up acts that diverged wildly in quality. Katz’s set was hysterical: his deadpan delivery and veteran sense of pacing sold every bit he used. He’s wasted on Squigglevision.