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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Training for the ‘Old Fart Olympics’

You can blog me a little now, or you can blog me a lot later.

Today was a very sporty day in my neighborhood. I got up, watched golf while I ate my cereal, took a shower, played softball, and then had lunch (with my teamies, of course) while watching baseball and talking about basketball, amongst other topics. Hockey didn’t come up, and I missed horseshoes and tiddlywinks, but pretty much every other sport was covered, I think. At the risk of boring all of you to the point of suicide, I think I’ll expound a bit on each sport that touched my little world today. Sounds like fun, eh? (The sport bit, not the suicide. Smartass.) Here goes.

1. Getting out of bed:

Quite possibly the most strenuous thing I did all day, and certainly the very most hardest. For one thing, I’m old. (Over thirty, even — the horror!) Which means — for those of you still in the springtimes of your lives — that various bits of my body are now wont to develop mysterious aches and pains overnight, as though sleeping is just a bit too tough a task for them to tackle. I go to bed relatively unscathed, and wake up with a sore back, or an achy neck, or wonky elbow… the list goes on and on. It’s all very demoralizing, let me assure you. I’m not sure what my body expects me to do — I mean, what’s easier than sleeping?

(Hey, on a somewhat related note, I have this annoying habit. Well, okay, I have lots of annoying habits — dozens of them; everybody says so — but most of them are annoying to other people, which is just peachy with me, quite frankly. Most people deserve it, and those bastards who tell me that I have annoying habits deserve it most of all, so there’s some poetic justice involved.

(One of my more annoying habits, by the way, is apparently pointing out ‘poetic justice’ when I’ve just annoyed someone. And how’s that for… well, poetic justice! Hee! I could do this all day.)

Anyway, of the few annoying habits that actually annoy me, only a few involve sleeping, or more precisely waking up from sleep and getting out of bed. (Many of the other habits do occur in bed, of course, but don’t involve sleeping. So I don’t wanna talk about them right now. Or probably ever.)

In any event, the thing that annoys me is related to another habit that must annoy my wife, namely that I seem to toss and turn in a rather higgledy-piggledy fashion while I’m sleeping. Now, normally this isn’t such a problem (for me, anyway), but a couple of times a month I’ll end up on my stomach, with my arms under my body. Not the most comfortable of positions, but maybe it happens when I’m dreaming of being a fish, or a worm, or a kidnap victim or something. Who knows? Anyway, the problem is that sometimes I land in this position and apparently stay that way for quite a while before I wake up. Which means that both of my arms are totally and completely ‘asleep’, even when the rest of me isn’t. Which further means that said arms are more or less useless as limbs, or even long gangly sticks.

This is the point where the problem of getting up, or turning over, or indeed even unstuffing my face from the pillow, becomes rather a taxing challenge. I usually end up rocking back and forth (away from the closer edge of the bed, away from it. Learned that one the hard way.) until I can use my legs to shimmy myself over onto my back and flop my arms to my sides (or, often, and more annoyingly, onto my face). I’m not a pretty sight sprawled out like that, wondering when and whether circulation will return to my arms. On the other hand, I’m probably a less pretty sight lying on my stomach with my hands tucked underneath me somewhere near my nethers, rocking back and forth and trying to do things like ‘shimmy’ and ‘flop’. Luckily, there’s rarely anyone around to see me in this predicament, but that makes it no less annoying. Far less embarrassing and socially repulsive, of course, but still exquisitely annoying.)

So, anyway, getting up is not the easiest thing in the world for me any more. Sounds easy, yes. Is easy, no. To make it worse, these days I also have to play head games with my body, which works just about as well as it sounds like it would. See, I’m between jobs at the moment, but I don’t want to get into the habit of sleeping for ten or eleven hours a day, lest it become a horrendous chore to get up when I actually do get another job. So I’m giving myself only an extra half hour or so every morning, and getting up at a reasonably early hour. Eight o’clock, say, or maybe eight thirty. The problem is, no matter what sort of pep talk I come up with at night, or what work clothes I lay out for the next day, my body knows — just knows — that there’s no damned good reason to get up at eight when we don’t need to be clean and showered and wearing pants until — oh, I don’t know — three in the afternoon or so. So my body fights me every step of the way.

(And yes, for you young chickens, once you hit about thirty, getting out of bed becomes a multi-step process. First, you take the covers off, and see how that feels. If it’s too hot, or too cold, or too windy, or too… Wednesday, then you can turn over and sleep for another half hour or so. You know, just to steel your nerves for the coming challenge. But let’s say you get past that step. Next, you’ve got to try dangling one leg over the edge of the bed. If you can pull that off without a hitch, then you can scootch your butt toward the middle of the matress, and drop the other leg off.

(Preferably off the same side as the first leg, but hey, if you’re a gymnast, you’re a gymnast. Knock yourself out.)

So now you’re about halfway home. Then you have to use your calves (and later in life, your hands as well) to pull your ass right to the edge where your feet are. Finally, you have to push yourself up off the mattress and onto your feet, and you’re home free! It’s a lot of work, and it doesn’t get any easier, let me tell you.

For you twentysomethings, the best way to describe it is this: Think of the last fairly debilitating hangover that you had, and how gingerly and deliberately you had to move around that morning to avoid hurting yourself further. That’s pretty much it. When you hit thirty, you’ll move like you have a six- to twelve-pack of beer hangover. Now I’m creeping up on thirty-five, so it’s becoming more like a two-bottle-of-red-wine hangover. I can only suspect that it continues to get worse and worse, and you pass through the margarita hangover stage to the Jack and Coke hangover, and then to the tequila shot hangover. Finally, around sixty-five or so, you wake up feeling like you’d pounded a gallon of Long Island iced teas the night before, and it’s just easier to stay in bed. I can’t wait.)

So, anyway, that was my getting-up experience today. I rolled out of bed around eight thirty, and dragged my body kicking and screaming along with me. And just to get a smidge of revenge, it decided to pull a muscle on my side, just a bit. I think I was tying my shoes or something equally strenuous when it happened. Fear old age, folks. Fear it.

2. Watching golf:

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way up front: golf is evil. I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t rehash it again. But I’ll admit that I’ve been sucked into playing golf, or trying to, on occasion. Fine. That doesn’t make me a blithering idiot. (Lots of other things make me a blithering idiot, but playing golf is the least of my worries in that department.) No, I’m not overly concerned about my golf activities because I don’t watch golf on television. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Hell, I even close my eyes when I play golf, which explains why I threaten to shoot in quadruple digits when I’m on the links. But the point is that I, as most sane people do, think that watching golf is akin to watching ice melt, or watching grandma’s hair fall out. (Except for the ‘gross-out factor’, of course. Well, unless somebody gives Fuzzy Zoeller another wedgie, that is. That’s as gross as gross ever needs to be, and then some.)

Anyway, all of that goes out the window when the British Open is on. I try to catch at least an hour or two of the coverage of this tournament every year, because British golf is not like American golf, not in the slightest. Oh, they still use clubs, and a little white ball, but that’s about the only similarity. First of all, all British golf is apparently played in an industrial wind tunnel. This week, at least two golf balls were blown out of position on the green before their owners could scurry up and putt them. Now these aren’t bowling balls being blustered around, I’ll admit, but I know from experience how much force it takes to kick a golf ball into a better putting position, and it isn’t trivial. It’s gotta take some gale force wind to get that sucker moving, friends. These aren’t gentle, rolling breezes out there; these are hurricanes with a case of the dry heaves.

So that’s one thing to watch. The next is the ‘rough’. Here in the states, the rough on a golf course is often referred to as the ‘second cut’. That is, the groundskeepers mow the grass on the fairway really short, and then go back and cut the rest of the grass a bit higher, to present more of a challenge. Sure, they leave some really thick, bushy stuff near the trees and such, but for the most part, the grass is just a couple of inches long at worst. Sounds okay, right? Well. That’s not how the Brits like their rough. No. In the UK, they cut out these piddly narrow little brown fairways, and then just leave the surrounding wilderness alone, to do whatever the hell it likes. And apparently, in many areas, it likes to grow up to be about seven feet tall, so it can lord it over the other grass and grains and small animals and humans that might be around. Tiger Woods — yes, that Tiger Woods — missed a fairway earlier this week, by maybe fifteen feet or so. (Even the Gods have chinks in their armor, folks.) Anyway, nobody could find the ball. It just dipped into this heathery abyss and disappeared. They searched for fifteen minutes or longer — Tiger was out there, the tourney officials were out there, they had Buckingham Palace guards and Scotland Yard detectives out there looking for the damned ball. Nothing. Tiger had to go back and tee off again. One day, the same thing’s gonna happen to a golfer rather than a ball. ‘I say, chaps, Nick Faldo was here just a moment ago. But he wandered off the fairway to take a whiz, and now he’s just gone. We’re listing him as ‘Missing, and Presumed Strangled By an Enormous Bloody Plant’. Bad luck, that.’

If that’s not bad enough, the Brits don’t have course ‘hazards’ like we do, either. Not by half. We build sand traps here in the US; in the UK, they build sand Punji pits, thirty feet deep and lined with railroad ties. Forget a Buick; you could lose an entire car factory in one of these behemoths. They’re gargantuan. Every time they build a new golf course, there’s one less of the White Cliffs of Dover, ’cause they have to grind one up to get the sand for the traps.

The British Open is an entirely different sport than American golf, and it’s ugly, ugly, ugly — even for the pros. (Some people say that the difficulty level evens out, because there aren’t any trees on most British courses to get in the way. Feh. As if that were intentional. All of those courses used to have trees, too, you know. But the mongo bizarro grass in the rough strangled most of ’em off, and the wind blew the rest of ’em over into the gaping quicksand pits, and they’re all buried there now. You couldn’t grow a tree on one of these courses any more than Duffy Waldorf could fit into a ballerina tutu and sing, ‘I’m a Little Teapot‘. Not happening.

3. Playing softball:

This actually went very well today, which is not usually the case. But we had enough people to field a team (without even asking the crazy guys living in shopping carts by the field to join us this time!), and we hit and fielded pretty well, and came away with a win. In fact, we were awarded a win, because the other team couldn’t keep up with us. Or as I like to say, ‘The Mercy Rule was invoked.’

(Of course, I don’t like to say that so much when we’re the ones getting mercied, but we were on the good side of things today, so piss off. Let me have my fun.)

I’ve always thought the idea of the Mercy Rule was a little odd. I’ve been playing softball and baseball since I was nine or so, and not once have I seen a player fall to his knees and rend his shirt and wail, ‘No mas! Please, I’m begging you! Spare me, and my pathetic teammates! Take our money, or our shoes, but for the love of God, please stop hitting those balls at us!‘ So I’m not sure exactly how the name came about. I suppose that ‘Mercy Rule’, even with its somewhat whiny connotation, still sounds better than the ‘Taking Too Damned Long to Get Pulverized Rule’. And it’s shorter, too. The ‘Suck Too Bad Rule’? Short, certainly. But no more appealing. Yeah, ‘Mercy Rule’ is probably better. Not quite right, but I suppose it’s the easiest name to remember. I still think we should get the other teams’ shoes and cash if we win that way, though. That’s just more drinkin’ money for afterwards.

4. Watching baseball and talking about basketball:

I’ll lump these together in an effort to wrap things up. I’m proud of you for sticking around so long; I really am. You can take a break if you’re getting tired. Go have a nice energy bar, maybe some Gatorade, and then come back for the big finish. Okay, all set? Good. Here we go, last topic.

So, I won’t bore you with the details of the baseball game we were watching (Red Sox over Toronto, yay!), or the discussions that we were having about basketball. I won’t even tell you what we had for lunch.

(Okay, okay, just a little. We started with an artichoke dip appetizer with crispy pita chips. And it was deemed scrumptious by all. Happy, pappy?)

I mainly just wanted to mention our lunch, and requisite beers, to prove to you that we really were playing softball. Softball, after all, is the premiere alcohol-required sport. Our league sadly doesn’t allow drinking during the games, or even before, so we have to content ourselves with lapping up liquory libations a little later than we’d normally like.

(My favorite softball drinking setup is the keg at second base, with a cooler of goodies in each dugout. This is by no means the pinnacle of beer-drinking softballery, however. The truly hardy souls among us prefer to post a keg at each base, including home plate, and to further require that each batter have a cup of brew before advancing to the next base. As you can imagine, doubles or better in such games are rare, though drunken stumbling and fistfights are rather more common. Oh, and in this setup, there’s usually little need for the extra coolers on the bench. Rather, the dugouts in these games are usually equipped with barf bags and ice packs. Plenty of ice packs.)

So, we have our favorite hangouts around the Boston area, depending on where we’re scheduled to play that week. There’s the dive with Irish food, good Guinness, and crappy televisions over the bar. Then there’s the place up north, with Mexican food and tasty margaritas. Finally, there’s our watering hole for today — a more upscale bar and grill with big-screen TVs, table service, and — again — well-poured Guinness.

(We are ‘Team Guinness’, after all. We’ve got to live up to the name, don’t we?)

And of course, the barkeeps and waitstaff run like hell away when they see us coming in, all sweaty and dirty and foul-mouthed.

(And those are just the women on the team. The women, ladies and gents, the women. Boy, are my arms tired! The women. Fine. Moving on.)

But we have a good time, and it’s a cool way to kill a few hours on a hot Sunday afternoon. Like blogging, only sweatier, and with more chance of bruising something. Well, that’s not strictly true, I suppose, given my habit of banging my forehead against my desk when I run out of ideas (fairly often) or feel like I’m writing drivel (extraordinarily often). Come to think of it, there’s at least a little bit of sweating and bruising in just about everything I do.

(Which makes my job interviews particularly interesting, let me tell you.)

Anyway, that’s my story, the whole story, and nothing but the story (plus several dozen things I made up to make it marginally interesting). And after blogging for so long now, I’m starting to miss my sports fix. I think I’ll go downstairs and see if I can find something fun on television to watch. Let’s see — what haven’t I covered today? Hockey, maybe? Horse racing? Well, I’ll see what’s on. I think ESPN is showing their ‘Outdoor Games’ this weekend, which seems to involve a lot of wood and power tools and dogs jumping around. Which doesn’t sound like sports to me. That sounds more like me trying to fix my porch, or build a birdhouse, or something equally impossible. Still, I’ll give the show a chance, and see how it goes. Anything on ESPN can’t be all bad, right?

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