Monday, January 11, 2016
New Year’s Eve 93
"Let's do a lap before we commit to a location." Clueless Since our first loss we’d won three in a row in pursuit of a high school state title and teenage immortality. On Christmas Eve, attending my girlfriends cobble stoned church in the heart of Madison center, I was stopped twice by townsmen in long, camel haired overcoats and their wives, “Cahlie, good luck Friday, I just wanted to say, Linda and I really enjoy watching you play the game!” Muffin couldn’t believe it. “Thank you.” I was so happy I was in a long overcoat and blazer. I needed the PR. In practice Magic and I worked so hard as to draw Bart eyes from the stars we backed up. The whole you earn playing time during practice time we were dumb enough to believe. Eventually we’d form a pact with D. Craft and Eric Slaughter to take it easy on certain drills in practice for the love of god. It was great being in the ACE program as a role player on the varsity. I could help or hurt but I wouldn’t lose or win games by myself. There was this optimistic sense in everything that was happening from school, to ACE, to basketball to my growing family and firm. I had even avoided detentions. We won Tuesday, we don’t play again until next Tuesday. It’s early Thursday morning, New Year’s Eve and we’re the only people at the high school. Practice was practice and we practiced perfectly. “It’s freezen in here coach.” David our captain, was right, if we cranked the heat over a hundred for big games we could most certainly turn it on for a cold winters practice. “Your right, tap drill, that’ll warm yup up.” The Big Guy ordering us from the comfy confides of his office chair wheeled daily onto the floor. He’d inform Gibbsy which old timers would be in tow so he could have the proper amount of chairs for his circle. “Harry, Doc and the Walrus” And we hated it, the tap drill, full court, eleven of us, the ball couldn’t touch the floor. “Miss the days we could withhold water Harry.” A remnant from the yuck fest on the sidelines leaked into your ear flying by somehow rationalizing in this painful torment the year thankfully it was. On days the Big Guy wore red shoes to school, word scorched the air waves unsettling us all. Those were the worst days but not as much after successive victories over a holiday. No red shoes, doughnuts, Big Guy’s family and most old timers. The first ten minutes or so we could yuck it up a bit with the friends of the program that were friends of the Big Guys and allowed to watch practice. Part of any good program in my estimation was a rapport with a few seasoned old timers that came to every practice. Each Practice followed a protocol and it hadn’t changed since the 60’s. 3 man weave, up and back. Zig Zag with a partner, communications, tap drill, run our entire offense practice our press, zones both sides, scrimmage, free-throws, scouting, scrimmage, free throws, new wrinkles, trick plays, charge drill, and then after all of that we’d condition, suicides + minute drills everything was timed and competitive. And always the Big Guy would coat his daily lesson plans with parallels he’d draw from his vast war chests that reminded you of the pride you were a part of. A practice could never simply end. You had to accomplish something and back then it typically was 3 suicides under 28 seconds followed by and “18 and you’re done” minute drill the real killer. If you couldn’t get 28 seconds after three, you’d get a second for every suicide until you accomplished this, 29, 30, 31, 32 and so on often ending with “Spec” our pudgy Larry Johnson look alike often still on the line at 38 or 39 to a sideline of his teammates rooting him on in a pond of sweat gasping for air. Most night’s he’d be the last one on the line, a bath of sweat needing to finish one suicide and under now 38 seconds. He’d run ten. And we’d get it up for him, every night clap it up, a team, a family. It was part West point as a solider and a sergeant. The camaraderie was living through this hell together. Making it through as brothers in the pursuit of this glory that when obtained resonated far beyond the perspiring walls of our fabled home gym. I just wanted to dive on the floor, perfect. In my mind I loved pain, in my mind, I’d die for the cause, the team, YG, UNLV, loose ball, there was very little I wouldn’t die for. It helped me not only get through but thrive in the Big Guy’s long feared drills of conditioning. Part of the reason the odds of my success exponentially jumped during the structure of a season was by design. Impulsivity, temptation, bad decisions, free time, access and criminals were threats. And basketball quietly, wistfully brushed them all underneath the clock for her annual mating time with me. Basketball took over all of my free time and that sole point de-activated all threats. This was a prime example, tonight was New Year’s Eve, and we were at practice, tomorrow was new Year’s Day (Bowl Games) and we practiced early, it was winter break. With the exception of American slavery there was nothing worse. Thank god I had an assistant. NYE Practice: “OK bring it in, sit.” The Big Guy, I loved the ten minutes before and after practice we spent “hanging out” with the Big Guy. I fucken love this team, thank you Jesus “OK we’ll make this quick, quick practice today we came in here, busted a gut, and we’re done. OK, you have a dangerous time ahead of all of you, we’re off with games til Tuesday we got, (pauses before saying like a game show host) New Year’s Eve, big night for some, not for you. Now we got a tough road game Tuesday, and I want Cape Charles again. I can’t wait, eh we’re moving up in the rankings and I’m happy what I’m seeing from the bench and the starters. I like how we’re practicing BUT we have to improve and we have to continue to win games if it’s gonna mean anything know what I mean Santo?” “Yes coach.” The Big Guy loved volleying around questions, commanding our attention, keeping it interactive. He was at once the funniest and scariest guy in the room. I bonded with that dichotomy. My sister and mother did too. We loved the guy, crazy recognizing crazy constantly being threaded through his verbal tapestry by the master himself made ACE the place for me. I could listen to him talk forever going back to his famous summer camps. A portion of our fans came just to see the big Guy. There was something about his genius with little kids that was lost by the time you reached high school. I couldn’t put my finger on it. How can so many people not like this guy? Can count on me yo. I knew it was tough, but it was worth it. We all wanted to win a state title. You had to pay the price. The most important day of the season is today. And while you sat at home on the couch there was a kid in Cape Charles, a kid in Cambridge that was out working on his game. If it’s to be it’s up to me, and so many more, the facts, a coach is a teacher like religion at their core they are all conveying the exact same things what matters is the delivery what you achieved and most importantly did you learn anything. Did you give everything you had? Mr. Robinson’s good fortune through my own truancy landed me right where it mattered most, he was shocked. He knew I loved basketball just didn’t understand the depth. He’d probably found hilarity in the irony of being so sacred to this particular code and or rules given my delinquent confidence applied against everything else. The honorable liar, part of it was the importance of fundamentals from my father. Your shot, your stance, your wind up, we kept it traditional. Part of it was perfect practice. Part of it surely was this program. Part of surely was all my eggs were in this one basket but mostly it was playing with my friends, my best friends doing what we loved to do more than anything on earth. On a very meaningful platform As we all sat inside the center court Minuteman the Gig Guy circled us. “Me I never went out anyway, It meant too much to me, I had a tradition to protect, I didn’t want to let down the other guys. That and Skippy Karem would punch me right in the nose if I made a mistake. Of course I won a state title in football, you know what I mean David?” Big Guy having to always subtly remind his best player that he played basketball and was the quarter back in football too. The tradition, like the team and or gang was really just about a family, and that’s what I wanted. “OK, I’m gonna go around starting with Santo. Why are you like so excited? “Just excited for Tuesdays game.” “Liah” We all laugh “So what are you doing, you got a date?” I shoot a look over at Santo, and then a look towards Stretch as we both give each other a quick dose of the Bart Eyes remembering his fumble with muffin’s little sister we tried to set up last week, “Do we have any Spanish homework?” His icebreaker in their living room, Stretch and I collapsed breaking watershed. Breath trick, the Big Guy would love if I shared that. He’d of asked him about Spanish homework for the rest of the season. “No just staying in, might shoot some hoops.” Santo shook his head, praying the moment would escape him. The Big Guy chokes up a bit of laughter when it clicks, “Oh yeah I forgot Santo’s got a basketball court in his house. You know you should never miss a free throw.” “Well just because-“ No!” Big Guy raises his voice enough to stop talking, “Nope, you have a basketball court in your house therefor you should never miss. Do you take a hundred free throws a night before bed.” “Well yes” “No you don’t Santo? Stop lying you’re a saint for crying out loud, you take a hundred a year!” I jump right in, “Santo, no way a hundred before bed, you should” everyone laughs, Santo gets red. He looked over and I gave him the cock in the mouth sign. “Chalie would take a hundred a night if he had it.” The Big Guy adds, as I agree, Santo gets angrier, Magic rolls his eyes Spec nods affirmative smiles. “You got a date tonight?” “No, just staying in.” Santo was rolling with me. The Big turned his attention speaking again to us all. “You know what I did in high school, was ask the best looking school on a date in front of anyone she always said yes, no one else had the guts. It’s like taking that big charge tio win the game, it takes guts.” And he continues to go around, “OK, Lamont, your brother Slaught, what are you two doen tonight?” He was excited to ask Spec and nervous with Eric Slaughter. He had no idea to comprehend what Slaught may or may not do tonight, like a good coach and parent he just wanted us all to stay in. Spec Slaughter, “I’m chillen, heading back to the city tonight, and chillen” “OK well what are you going to do ya dope?” “My favorite night of the year, three, three Stooges marathon, channel, 56 ten hours long.” The Big Guy starts laughing, it was good humor Lamont loving the three stooges in 1992 as much as he did. “The stooges unbelievable.” Stops, make the face certain casting a loving fondness for those words before adding, “That’s what I’m doing too, I gotta get you more playing time.” “Yes, sir” Spec beamed. Those were after all his plan’s, the toughest kid here sans his older brother was staying in and watching the three Stooges marathon, doing the Right Thing. “OK Mike, Mr. Politician what are you doing tonight” Little Magic (as he was still 5-7 a hundred fifty, so was I) responded with quick and brisk tone for his young voice. “I’m not a politician” “Sure you’re not. So what’s the politician doen tonight?” This was the highest form of entertainment to me. “I’m into the season Coach, I’m going to bed early get a good night’s sleep and focus on the 3rd and Woburn.” In his high pitched, classic call out tone. ”Shuuuuuuuuuuuut up Mike, bunch of lies from the liah. OK David our captain, “go” “I mean you know me Coach?” “unfortunately” “I got to meet up with some hunnies” “Oh yeah who u daten these days?” “Oh coach (smiling as if we had again won the lottery) I got two sisters tonight, you know they making me dinner, I’m kinda seeing both, I almost got a girl in every,“ “OK shut up Craftsmen, good for you.” “I know Jelly is staying in, I know Dirk is staying in, what about (scanning, I can hear the beeps) Chalie? Coaches, listen up, this should be good.” “I don’t know yet, hang out with my mom a lil bit, maybe see Muffin?” The Big Guy coughed up a lung. “You mean the girl that sang the National anthem and nothing came out?” “Yeah that one.” “You better stay in tonight, you know if I ever got a call from police, I know em all, your out, trouble making, you’d be off the team, that night. I’d feel good about it.” “yeah well no, right” “we’re practicing tomorrow early 9AM” Announced right there to a chorus of our own agonizing “whatt’Z!” And “AW DAyum! Walking into the locker room to change I turn and ask of Magic “Dam I guess he doesn’t trust us at all” “would you?” “good point.” “Call me at six” Amory Blaine’s New Year’s Eve Party This was exciting one of our own was throwing the party this evening. Amory best friends with Monster played hockey and loved the YG crew so much he got thrown out of the private school his parents put him back in our dark junior high days and hence re-united. Tonight was to be one for the ages. Time was running out. You never wanted to miss anything and always be there for the big ones. You never knew when something was going to happen kids would talk about for years. The making and re ranking of legendary status always on watch. Especially on New Year’s, we only had 2 left in our careers. I was excited to kiss muffin at midnight. I was excited to get smashed with my sister. Phases 5 Parties. OK, it’s a big deal. There are five phases of people that will come to your house if you throw a high school party. If you go past three you’re in trouble, 5 is a nuclear meltdown. This is why parents are nervous to leave teenagers in their nice houses over pimp holidays. There were phase 1-5 levels of mayhem five being parental nightmare. Phase V: This when you lose it and craze yourself dumb, reduced to a retard your faculties have left the building, your year 1, dead to the world outside a heartbeat. You might drool, hope is hopefully on the way as well as punishment and maybe banishment. Phase V is when breaks past all of high school and some of the craziest people of all time under 40 show up carrying an assortment of addictions and illnesses. Be wary of that fast track. Phase 5 is when its leaked, leaked , leaked, and there was no, no, no control. Every person that you’d never ever want smoking a cig on your parents sofa, all there, with the school, and no police. You can’t call the police on yourself, and they miraculously never came (is that true?). Phase V is when all is lost, your great grandfathers gold ring from WW2, along with your dads Ted Williams autograph, looking at minimum of 10K in damages and theft. Fridge emptied, secrets revealed, innocence lost, fights and bloody noses, drugs, sex and rock in roll, a great high school party. And they happened, and they were awesome you just didn’t want to be the victim. “Only one of us has ever seen a phase 1.” Twister Peeking noticeably down the street, Amory’s block is double barreled with parked cars, there are a lot of people there, this is what the 80’s must’ve been like every night. Besides the basketball I was beginning to understand rather quickly that I had, in fact already been involved in a bunched of fucked up situations. I heard two older kids refer to me as a legend for the very first time that night although I hardly believed it. It was delightful to have an entire discussion about memorable class time disruptions I’d accorded through the years. Everyone had a bunch, it went on and on, and they were all great. I loved it. I always loved the comedian. Eric Slaughter was funny everyone else was not as funny sans the Big Guy. Pasquale: P is funny because he’s very good at pushing everyone else’s buttons, and never stops trying. Pas is funny cause he loves to pile on, loves the sixteenth kick in the head from afar with wristbands on. The never ending clips when we play tackle football outside of the team. He was a valuable asset that freshmen year in the gang. I adore him for that. He’d rallied after the debacle that was freshmen year. His grades improved and he reeled it in although I could still get him excited to partake in something retarded for absolutely no reason at all. Magic: Mike is funny because he does not listen to non-sense, which he gets from the famous “Bart Eyes.” Mike calls people out for being stupid which he constantly has to do. Misinformation, jumbling of facts, the elicit yet approachable manner (sometimes) he does it in, well, it’s funny. Calling people out was our religion kept us sharp and both a good and a bad way. Spec: Spec was funny like Magic was funny. If you said something retarded, he’d catch ya, every time. Except he’d say, “don’t force it.” And we’d all lose it, and if you said it you turned red. I mean before Spec Slaughter I was saying “by by” instead of peace. He caught me on that one early, first day of school, sixth grace too. I’m glad he handled it in such an undercover professional way We were all funny in the things we’d all get each other into, it was the whole point of friendship, we were cognizant of the stories from jump, Hayden, it had to be, one shot. Santo: Santo was funny because of how easy it was to make him so angry about anything. That always sent us “blotchy.” And led to more than a few fist fights, and he was the common denominator. He’s also funny in the way he doesn’t give a fuck at times. Kid gets so fired up yo Monster: Monster was because he never stopped shaking. His ADHD was so intense his parents thought he had turrets syndrome. Monster was funny in the best possible type of way. Self-deprecating to the point of a suicide watch list. His general bad attitude towards life was hilarious. We’d make each other spastic exploring new dimensions of lack of caring and thought. He wanted to die so bad at 27, and wanted to consumer drugs, Brian (Monster) was funny because he was so sure of himself when he said these were the best and only years of life, bliss. “Charlie Paradise, legend, what’s up kid, you need a beer?” We heard it again, older guys, and again and again and again. I’m happy, I’ll never stay in. “What’s up with these guys on your nuts?” Muffin giggled in my ear. She flipped her least favorite saying of mine to her into lemonade. She was hilarious, her finest quality besides big breasts. She loved incorporating my hip-hop into her own vernacular. I was always joking, telling her to “get off my nut suck.” I’d sing it, even when I did the beat she’d say, “hey!” The cartoonish voice she employed gave it a real delivery. “I’ve known those guys for years playing basketball at Hayden, it’s all going down now pumpkin.” We had fans. It wasn’t always hate and now that we were making our run towards what held the most weight athletically in our sacred town, these were small rewards. “Fuck it I’m getting hammered.” I inform Muffin as I grab two bud cans and rip open both at once with my teeth Neanderthal style. After all, I as in the ACE program, this was expected. Give the audience something. Mike told me that night I had good poll numbers. Within fifteen minutes I had lost Mattie (Muffin) and her younger sister Marlo. I was with Mike listening to older heads talk about how good we’ve always been and what a good kid I was. I couldn’t believe it. And it was at that moment, and for the very first time in the breath of dissipating youth I saw Madison MA for the first time for what it really was regardless of spin. It was just another place just another town. After that, the flood gates opened. It was chaos. “All too Easy.” Vader And with the thought of practice and our big rematch against Cape Charles looming I had a five-beer quota in my head and after that last press conference reached my limit, It’s not a law. I felt like I was watching via simulcast the hydrogen bomb dropping on Nawasaki high on weed. Once it settled, I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. The hinges were off. This was destruction. “I gotta get out of here.” I quickly turn to Mattie, this was way ugly and couldn’t be connected to me in anyway. “Let’s go” I grab her hand and more directly make the point. Amory had gone into convulsions and an unexpected hero emerged from the worst of all time crew. The ceilings were stained with red wine and inside this plush crib was now Gettysburg the morning after. Many Young Guns among others stayed around to help clean including the one and only Jimmy White. Jimmy the famed “J” scribed into the benches that followed my own delinquency was generally regarded two almost three years since his high school graduation as the biggest Madison legend ever. Amory had played hockey in Madison for years, Jimmy was regarded as the best player in the high school a few years back knew him from that, and probably felt bad even if Amory was a “soc” to his greaser. The fact that he stayed behind to help clean was a massive headline. Everyone was talking about how nice Jimmy White had been the joys of lowering the bar. In Boston people love to compliment maniacs when they don’t flip something upside down. It was worth mentioning however Jimmy was in many eyes a sociopath like his older brother before him. They had no love for most, abandoned by their parents, forced to raise themselves in this town of embarrassing riches and extreme privilege what did he give a fuck if a castle like Amory’s Blaine’s was destroyed once again by Madison frantic teenage insurgency he’d bathed in all of his life, led and inspired? “Charlie!” It was Mattie, I paused. “Ok, I’m coming, where’s Santo?” I’d set up Santo with Muffin’s little sister, and we’d all come together. “What?” “You asked me to ask you that before we left.” “What did I say after that?” “That he’s out in the porch Yep, it was Santo and he definitely isn’t on his feet. I hope he hasn’t eaten any cat food tonight, zilla. “Hey pal, what’s the deal? What’s going on with you?” “It’s fucking Liz.” “oh Jesus, kid falls in love like Junior High.” “I love her dude.” I couldn’t believe it. At sixteen it was obvious guys got over girls quickly and vice versa. After another couple minutes I tugged at his ear, “Hey, hi Santo, let’s go buddy, we gotta get out of here, police are coming, come on.” Muffin came and helped him up, as we got Santo in the car and quickly dispersed. A moment later, Santo already dried up hinted he now wanted to hook up with my sister, “I’ll knock you out.” He was soon laughing and felt much better. I was glad after all, he’s our starting forward. “Set your alarm, Stretch is picking you up early tomorrow.” “I know.” He said like an 90 year old drunk. I was in no better condition. Wow life is all about compromises and I’ve made none. My sudden and apparent universal acceptance was the best part of the movie. It had all in a short period of time swung my way. And I believed it could go on that way forever. I was chosen for something, Jesus, always bailed me out. It’s easy to rationalize things as being in your favor when they are an utter disaster. My mom would say, “Well yeah according to you you’ve never done a thing wrong!” I was getting under her skin. “You’ll probably run for office one day, hey you’ve never done a thing.” “I could.” I smile an infectious smile of a kid that knows how to make a puppy face in intensive care. My mother would cease being angry when she saw that smile and I hadn’t been accused of anything egregious recently, “yeah” she conceded, “you probably will.” “No just Magic, but I’ll run the campaign behind the campaign.” “Oh you and Mike have been competing against each other your whole lives, ever since you were teeny tiny.” She loved to push the relatio0nship and at this point we all did. And it was true. But Magic at that point was a fan on a thin roster. I had the girl, I was going to be successful they were wrong. I was right. I had watched closely since I was a child. He had game, but he was soft wasn’t a thug. He was a thug but had no game. He was a thug with game but he had no head. He had a crazy smart head but he had no, repeat no game. He had head, sick game and good looks just could never take a charge, scared. It never came together. With us we believed it would all come together. It was time to agitate the gravel. I had basketball practice tomorrow early in the morning playing for the third ranked team in the state. The next morning at practice during the “tip drill” in the first ten minutes coming back down, I just kept running out of the gym and into the bathroom stall sliding on my knees like the porcelain throne was a microphone in the first half hour of practice. “He’s blowing his cookies!” I heard the Big Guy bellow as my lunch came up. I was in rough shape as Coach Gibbs runs in, and confirms, “Yup, blowing his cookies.” He says the least impressed. It took me a quick while to get it all out, I was sweaty, and wiped out. Walking back into the gym with a blanket covering my back I sat in the bleachers with program friends, Dr. Shellmire, and Harry Lay. “Cookie blower, there he is disgrace. Who’s next? Whose gonna blow next? And hey!” Shoots a menacing look in my seated direction. “You might never play again.” My heart sank as the good Dr. Shell urged me to hang in there. And as I often did, I got talking with Dr. Shellmire, and told him right away about what didn’t feel right and what should I do? He told me to go home tonight, “And heat up some milk on the stove, drink that, that usually does the trick.” “OK, everyone on the line, let’s run two for the cookie blower.” I get eleven disgruntled looks directly at me, “let’s go! Brinklow blow the whistle! What I gotta do everything around here?” The Big Guy expedites. That Monday in ACE, the Big Guy still pissed asked me once the calming arrival of Dunken Doughnuts puts everyone in a good mood. “Hey Cahl, if you owned this place, they’d call it drunken doughnuts.” They all laughed. And laughed some more. Finally Big Guy having got me and deservedly so, was nice enough to ask, “you feeling better, you didn’t blow anymore cookies after tha.” “yeah I did?” He just looked up, direct stern eye contact, “No, no! it wasn’t like that, Dr. Shellmier told me to boil milk and drink when I got home, it made me sick again. “Wha?” Cuts of me off with his hand and then blows his words. “Cahl, the guy’s a freaken dentist!” Laughter erupts. I felt sick. “You dope” It got the Big Guy so good he wasn’t even mad at me anymore. I was off, we all laughed, it became a classic. I was chalking em up.