Monday, April 18, 2011

Two Guys Discussing How to Make a Jim Davis Balloon for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The setting is an indistinguishable office in mid-town Manhattan. Two young men are talking about a project to create a gigantic balloon sculpture to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of Garfield and Universal Press Syndicate. The syndicate wants to make a splash and expects the balloon to lead this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The deadline is just hours away.

“Do you have any ideas yet?”
“Yes. I have a few. Want to hear them?”
“I do. We better have something fast. And soon. And good.”
“Don’t worry. I have a bunch of good thoughts. First off, I was thinking that we can have a balloon made up to have Jim Davis in a bath tub. You know, the old- time bath tubs with the claw feet?”
“That’s what I was thinking of. None of this modern bathtub-personal spa bullshit, Davis is nothing if not classy. Anyway, he’ll be in the tub and we can have a bubble machine pumping bubbles and suds on the crowd.”
“Nice. I like that.”
“And we can have a little piece of a wall near the tub and on the wall we can have a calendar saying, ‘Monday, November, 13’. And then in Davis’ hands we can have him drop a plugged-in radio into the tub.”
“Uh, what?”
“What do you mean what? Are you talking about the bubbles? I thought you liked the bubbles going over the tub and on the kids?”
“I did. The other thing.”
“The calendar? You’re right, that might be a bit in-your-face for Thanksgiving. I bet the audience will get that he’s having a bad day.”
“No. I mean the radio. Why would he drop it in the tub?”
“Because it’s a Monday. Bad day, remember? Doesn’t sound like you like (or get) this one. Here’s another idea: how about we have a big balloon scene of Jim Davis’ kitchen. There’s a fridge, a sink, a stove with a plan of lasagna and a cat just staring at it. All of this stuff will be stainless steel. Because of the classy thing.”
“Sounds good so far. Where’s Davis?”
“Davis has his back to the audience and his head is in the oven. Behind the balloon, we can have a bunch of blue, white and gray paper streamers on a fan in the background and they can be wafting up to make it look like the gas is on. Oh yeah, they’ll be a calendar showing the date of ‘Monday, September 28’ in the background. What do you think?”
“Why is Davis trying to kill himself? And why is he in the kitchen?”
“Monday’s bad luck strikes anywhere, man. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the kitchen or the living room or under a tree. When shit is going down, shit is going to get you.”
“I don’t think that this idea is family-friendly. This is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Kids will be watching.”
“Ok. How about this, Davis is hanging by a belt from a door frame with his pants around his ankles, an obvious victim of auto erotic asphyx --”
“Ugh. Alright. This is my last idea, good thing it’s my best one. Are you ready?”
“Yeah. We need a good one.
“Ok. Davis is at a draftsman’s board.”
“Good. We’re getting somewhere.”
“He has a few drawings tacked up and a pen in his hand.”
“Great. This is exactly what I’m looking for.”
“And a protractor jammed into his jugular. He’s got blood all over his hands and a ton of blood spurting out his neck like a fucking geyser. We also need to have a look of shock, confusion and serenity on his face. Can a balloon do that? It has to be all at once. And his calendar reads ‘Monday, June, 19!”
“Forget it. This is pointless. Do you even know who Jim Davis is?”
“No. Isn’t he that clumsy friend of yours?”

Suddenly a door barges open, breaking the silence. It’s the men’s boss: Jim Davis. He isn’t happy.

“What the fuck are you idiots doing? Get back to work! Those urinals aren’t going to scrub themselves! And use a toothbrush this time. God, you’re fucks.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Remembering Fenway Park

If we can be completely honest with each other, I’ve never been a member of the “Save Fenway Park Club”. I found the lyrical, little bandbox to be cramped, dirty and a bit depressing. Every winter the previous Red Sox ownership would slap a little green paint on the Wall and proclaim that they “updated” the park for the next season. However, generations of green paint couldn’t hide the crumbling bleachers or the compact seats or the terrible sight lines or the appalling lack of any modern amenities*.

* When Gillette Stadium were built at the turn of this century, Bostonians actually got excited because the seats had cup holders. This is not an exaggeration. Writers wrote about this phenomenon and people in the Boston area were pumped for a half-cylindrical piece of plastic that held a 16-ounce beverage. That’s how poor the stadia in the greater Boston area was even a decade ago—the addition of cup holders were met with Hosannas.

I had been to other parts of the country and I had watched a game from a seat that faced home plate (not left field). And I’ve been to a ball park that didn’t give me a choice between Bud and Bud Lite and called it a day. I’ve been to a ball park where the game was the number one priority, but the enjoyment and comfort of the fans was paramount too.

It was good. And it made me hate my home ballpark, Fenway Park, even more.

So when “Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox” by Harvey Frommer came to my home, I was a bit suspect. Yes, under the new ownership of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Luccino, the experience at Fenway Park has become infinitely better. But this place is still old. And while their tenure has made me want to bomb the place back to the stone age less, really didn’t want it to stand for another 100 years either.

After reading Frommer’s book, my attitude changed even more. There are scant few places in the world where one has access to this much history on a daily basis and Fenway Park is one of them. Frommer has gone to great lengths to interview and create a narrative where the reader is able to delve into the rich history of the Red Sox, from the folks who were actually there. The ballpark and the team’s history is intertwined.

One of my all-time favorite books is “Loose Balls” by Terry Pluto, which details the rise and fall of the American Basketball Association. Using only the recollections and words of the people who were associated with the ABA, Pluto penned a fascinating book that felt epic in scale to its subject. Frommer has done the same thing with his book, and being a die-hard Red Sox fan, I couldn’t be happier.

From players to sportswriters to long-time fans, the passion of the people that he interviews is captured in each anecdote they tell and practically jumps off each page. And that’s what makes this more than just another stale history of the Boston Red Sox—most can spout the names and numbers of events both good and bad in Red Sox history as if they were our children’s birth dates—this books is more like a gathering of your closest and most knowledgeable baseball friends sitting around and swapping extremely entertaining stories.

And while the writing is fascinating, the photographs are just as fantastic. I’m not going to be too bold and say that I’ve seen every picture of the Boston Red Sox ever taken. That’s obviously an insane proclamation, but I have seen a lot and I must say that by my calculations at least 90% of the shots in “Remembering Fenway Park” are ones that I had never laid eyes on before.

All of the great Red Sox heroes of the past are represented here including a really cool double page shot of Ted Williams pitching against the Detroit Tigers. I know that Williams took to the bump a few times in his career and I’ve seen smaller shots of the occasion, but never had I seen one so larger and with so much detail. I’m not sure where Frommer found the snapshot, but not only is it an important picture, but a beautiful one too.

The one gripe that I have with the photo selection is that Nomar Garciaparra is conspicuously missing from the honor roll of Red Sox greats. The aforementioned Williams, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz all make an appearance in this tome, but not Nomar. And while it’s not a reason to not purchase the book, it struck me as a bit odd to not include a player that was instrumental in keeping the Red Sox afloat in the latter part of the 1990s.

Another of the books’ winning qualities is its size. Oversized and meant for the coffee table, “Remembering Fenway Park” has the luxury of laconically taking the reader through Boston’s American League’s representative’s history at a pace conducive to the nation’s past time. Not only can the reader absorb the stories of the men and women telling them, but thanks to the over sized photos, they can immerse themselves in the details of the past.

“Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox” is a terrific book and one that should be on the bookshelf of every Boston Red Sox fan.