Jim Left Early, Again

Jim, if you recall, is my seat mate at the Rutgers Men's basketball games, who has a tendency to leave with three minutes left in the game.  Most of the time, the outcome has been decided;  we're either losing badly, or winning easily.

However, tonight against the number ten team in the country, against a future Hall of Fame coach, Jim and his wife get up to leave with 2:50 left in the game, with Rutgers only down by three points!!  The ten or so of us around him screamed,

"Jim, where are you going?  This is very winnable, and a great game none the less."

I reminded him of the Villanova game last year ( see the first "Jim Left Early"), which was no help. He and his wife kept charging toward the exit.

We, his stranded seatmates, saw Rutgers forge ahead, then fall behind, then tie the game at the end of regulation. 

They did the same thing in the first overtime.

In the second overtime, they prevailed, and we who stayed witnessed the best game in over twenty years. (Not the Villanova game, there was too much luck involved in that one.)

It suddenly dawned on us that perhaps it's a good thing for Jim to leave a close game early.  In abstencia, we decided in the future to make sure Jim leaves early.  His sacrifice to the Rutgers basketball Gods might bring good fortune, and make the difference for making a post season tournament.  Jim could be the coach's secret weapon.  If he should decide to start staying for close games, we have to find a polite way to urge him to leave, for the good of the team.

Jim, we all do things for love.  Just keep doing what your doing.


The Quarter

It really is a small world.  Here's a story of a circle which took almost sixty years to complete.

Back in another Age of Innocence, growing up in Bergenfield, NJ was a really fun time for us kids in the 1950's.  Our mothers would think nothing of giving each of us fifty or sixty cents on a Saturday to form a group of "ten or so" somethings, shushed us off  to Washington Ave (the main street) to grab a bite to eat, then go to the movies.  Lord knows they deserved a break; we were a fairly wild bunch.

Off we would go the six or so blocks to our first stop, the Corner Luncheonette.  It was a mom, pop, and two son operation, where I first got to like hamburgers.  Before then, I just put ketchup on them, when Gene, one of the sons, said,

"You've got to put mustard on it also."

Bingo.  Still do it to this day.

In fact, the next time we had burgers at home, and I put ketchup AND mustard on mine, my mother gave me that "What are you doing... kids today" look.  It was the same look I gave our son the first time he put ketchup, not mustard, on his hot dog. 

All of us kids looked up to Gene, he was a few years older, probably just starting high school.  However, it was the way he entertained us while at the counter which had us coming back almost every Saturday, sort of like a warm up show before the the double or triple feature at the Palace Theater.  I remember to this day that the burger and the soda fountain coke cost thirty cents, and Gene, as a finale to his act would bounce the quarter off the counter top, then catch it in his apron's front pocket.

I'm quite sure we all enjoyed the movies all the more after Gene's setup, and filed the indelible memory forever.

It didn't end there, though.

A few years ago while our new home in Marlboro was being constructed, I stopped in the development to check the progress.  This man and his wife on bicycles stopped to talk and welcome me to the neighborhood.  When the man said he was also from Bergenfield, and his parents used to own a luncheonette in town, I realized I was talking to Gene.

We both laughed at the world's smallness, and I asked if, when we settled in could he make me burger, and bounce a quarter off the counter top.

Before he could answer, Lee his wife said,

"Not on my granite!"

Another laugh from an old, new found friend.


Open Sesame

I never can resist a practical joke when the opportunity presents itself.

Cal and I take turns driving to see our beloved Rutgers Men's Basketball team play a half hour away in New Brunswick, NJ.  It's much easier when I pick him up, because when he drives, I have to remember to take the remote to get back into our gated community after the game.

This time it was Cal picking me up, and he had a business associate, Curt, who is the executive producer of NJ Discover, an up and coming TV/Internet company.  Curt seemed like a strait shooting, stand up guy, and I'm not just saying that because he paid for dinner.  So Cal and Curt rumble up to my house, actually on time, and we go off roading out the back entrance to the community.  I say "off roading" because the final pave hasn't been applied, and the road is really more like an irregular washboard.

After we had a bite to eat, which Curt insisted paying for, we were off the the RAC to see if our charges could keep it together for forty minutes, and emerge with a win.  They did manage a "W", but not before they played havoc with the coach's blood pressure:  spiking it in the first half with a sloppy sandlot effort, then lowering it in the second by switching gears to win by twenty five.

The comic relief of the night came when Cal pulled up to the back gate and I said,

"Cal, I forgot the remote to get back in , but they just installed a voice activated feature.  Roll down the window so I can shout the code."

He did that, and I yelled, 

"Open Sesame!"

Cal was dumbfounded.

"Your voice opened the gate just by you saying that?"

"Not really,"  I said as I produced the clicker from my front pocket.

Curt was laughing so hard, I thought he was going to piss his pitcher of beer all over the back seat.

Cal was nor amused.

"John, I'm a very vengeful person.  Watch out."

"Cal," I said, " How do you know your one of my best friends?"


I smiled, then replied, "When I pull a stunt like this."

I think he got over it, because he didn't make me walk the rest of the way back to my house.


Smokey and the Holidays, part two

If Smokey the cat thought he died and went to Heaven for Thanksgiving, he sure did an encore for the following Christmas.  We had decided when we rescued him it would be better for him to become an indoor cat; not half in and half out, but all the way inside.  He didn't seem to mind this.  He no longer had to "sing for his supper" so to speak, and it must have been nice to be warm all the time, with all his meals delivered, some even cooked.  The only hunting he did in the last few weeks almost bagged him a turkey leg.

In those days, we had real Christmas trees, and we loved the fresh evergreen smell they wafted into the house. The tree that year had an unintended effect on Smokey, who must have thought he was outside again.  It's hard to explain, but the tree had the same effect as a giant sprig of catnip.  He would run under the tree, which was in the corner,  out the other end, then through several rooms in the house.  We yelled when he did this, and he seemed to get the message, before we started decorating the tree.

But he didn't, really get the message.

We were in the kitchen cleaning  when we heard a crash, with the sound of glass ornaments breaking, and water spilling onto the living room floor.  Seconds later, we saw Smokey calmly licking his wet paws, which fortunately weren't cut.

We righted the tree, cleaned  the mess, then I got an eye hook for the corner seam of the wall, and some mono filament fishing line to anchor the tree to it.

Smokey did get the message this time, and never longed for the great outdoors again.

I followed this procedure each year after that, and when we moved out of that house, I left the eye hook in the corner, in case next owner had a cat and a Christmas tree. 


Smokey and the Holidays, part one

You already know about our white, black and gray cat from his escapades with our Pekingese, Flair, a few post ago.  He was much more of a comedian than that, which I'll tell you about now.

Smokey came into our lives the Friday before Thanksgiving when we still lived in our first house in Glen Rock, NJ.  If my wife hadn't had a soft spot, and not brought him home that weekend, I  don't think he would have survived it.  He spent the weekend in the Egyptian vet's hospital to get his body fluids back to normal.  I guess he used one of his nine lives that weekend, but by Monday, he was as good as new, and checking out our house, and evading Flair by hopping atop this or that chair or piece of furniture.

The following Thursday, Thanksgiving, we were spending it quietly; just Genna, my wife, her grandmother, the dog, Flair, and the new cat, Smokey.  We made a full course dinner anyway, despite the short guest list.  After thew main course, we retired to the living room.  Grandma took a nap.  I was in a chair in the corner, without a view of the dining room table.  Genna went into the kitchen, I presumed to start washing a few things, to which I said:

"Gen, relax.  I'll start the cleanup in a little while."
"That's OK.  I'll just rinse a few plates," she replied.

Unbeknownst to me, Genna went out to the garbage outside, and I heard to rustle of silverware on the dining room table.

I said again,

"Gen, I'll take care of it, relax."

I kept hearing the silverware moving, and I decided to investigate.

As I walked into the dining room, I saw Smokey dragging a drumstick over the silverware, and onto the floor.  I was able to grab the drumstick before Smokey could run off with into a quiet corner to feast.  He ran away from me, and turned around with a look that said 'ahh shucks'.

Not having a cat for a while made me forget their unlimited mobility inside the house.