Tag Archives: Monty Python

Passing another “grown-up” milestone that snuck up on me. An Olympic event you didn’t see. And fighting your Mom over chicken salad

Sometimes by the time you’re my age (in four days I’ll turn 37) you think you’ve passed most of the yardsticks you measure being a man by.
Learning to drive, going off to college, getting your first apartment, your first job, etc.
But every once in a while, a new “first” sneaks up on you that makes you feel pretty good.
Take Sunday. For the first time in my life, my whole immediate family came over to an apartment I lived in, and I “hosted” them for an evening of entertainment.
The reasons it’s taken this long for me to have the whole family over are mostly geographical: When I lived in Florida and in upstate New York, I was far from home.
My ex-wife and I had an apartment and at one time or another, both sets of my parents, and her parents, came over. But never all at once.
When I was single my apartments were never big enough to host more than a few people at a time; I always went to one set of parents’ place for meetings.

But finally, things all came together. My fiance and I live in Manhattan, and since we just moved in together a month ago, none of my family had seen the new pad.

The whole day felt very grown-up; the few hours of cleaning and prepping beforehand, the welcoming everyone into the apartment, the “appetizers” we served, going out to eat, coming back for dessert, etc.

It was no big deal on the surface, but it felt like a big deal to me.  When everyone left after the whole day had gone smoothly (my 7-year-old nephew was super-excited he could walk around the roof of the building; “I can see New Jersey from here!” he exclaimed, making him the first person to ever say that with excitement), we closed the door and sighed.

We have a lifetime of entertaining ahead of us; Thanksgivings, Rosh Hashanah, etc. For now, though, it was a big deal just to be “the hosts” for a change.

**Anything that even slightly references Monty Python and the “Silly Walk” has a good chance of making me laugh.
So here’s a video splicing commentary from the 2012 Olympic “Dressage” competition with, well, just watch…

**There were lots of times in my journalism career when I wished instead of covering sports, I was a police reporter. They always had the most fun stuff to write about.
Like I would’ve loved to be the police reporter in Spartanburg, S.C. when this came across the ole’ scanner.
A 26-year-old man in South Carolina was arrested after fighting with his 67-year-old Grandma.
Seems Jesse Beam heard Grandma come home and say she got chicken salad for dinner. He thought she was calling him a “chicken.”  When she tried to explain that’s not what she said, he threw a bowl of food at her and then shoved her to the ground, causing Grandma to get cuts and bruises and a broken nose.
Jesse was arrested for assault and battery, and given a free set of hearing aids at the county jail.

The Teddys of New England

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I’m not sure if HBO planned it this way (it’d have been very smart if it did), but in the past three weeks the channel premiered two brand-new and extremely good documentaries on men called “Ted” who both are inextricably linked with New England.

Ted Williams, the greatest baseball hitter who ever lived, and Ted Kennedy, who’s been serving in the U.S. Senate for 46 years (I admit, that number astounded me, even though I knew he’d been there forever. Let me use a sports metaphor to put that into perspective: Ted Kennedy has been running for, or been in the Senate for the entire history of the New York Mets franchise. Amazing.)

I watched both movies this weekend, and thought both were terrific. You wouldn’t think there would be that much in common between them other than Massachusetts: Teddy Ballgame was a San Diego kid who grew up and could do something better than anyone else in the world: hit a baseball between two fielders.

And Teddy Kennedy, well, he’s an indestructible force of nature, for good and bad, who’s been a part of the American political scene longer than anyone else.

A couple of things I think connect the two men, which came into focus after watching the two movies:

**Both of them gave people plenty of reason to dislike them, yet have ended up being mostly beloved. Williams was a jerk to a lot of people: teammates, the media, his own family, sometimes.

**They both had difficult childhoods, though for very different reasons. Williams was neglected by his parents and forced to grow up fast, while Kennedy suffered tragedy after tragedy. Two siblings died before he was even 15 years old, which I don’t think most people remember about him.

** You want your flawed heroes, here are two very flawed men. Williams was a jerk a lot of the time, an absent father to his kids, and he seemed to resent how much Joe Dimaggio won, and yet “The Splendid Splinter” could get to only one World Series.

(Still think that might be the best baseball nickname ever. Although it’s hard to argue against “The Human Rain Delay,” which was what they called ex-Indians slugger Mike Hargrove. He got the name because he took so damn long between pitches, stepping out of the box and what not. See, the things you learn on this blog!)

And as for Kennedy, well, where do you start with his flaws? He was a heavy drinker for most of his adult life, an accidental murderer of a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne on the island of Chappaquiddick 40 years ago, and an egotist who commanded the spotlight everywhere he went.

But both men were so human, with their foibles so out in the open, that I think perhaps they became larger than life when they succeeded.

A few other thoughts on each movie, both of which are showing on HBO all month and on HBO On Demand:

** I knew Williams had a love-hate relationship with Red Sox fans, but I was honestly shocked to learn that as early as 1940, after his amazing rookie season, he was getting booed at Fenway. The guy had just hit .327, drove in 145 runs, and finished fourth in the MVP voting, and he’s getting yelled at by his home fans? Crazy.

**His temper was legendary, but I thought the best example in the movie was the anecdote told by one of his former wives, who said he once ripped the phone out of the wall in their house, then demanded she call the phone company to have them come fix it. Funny if it wasn’t so scary.

**Robert Redford chose No. 9 for the Roy Hobbs character in “The Natural” because he idolized Ted Williams. Didn’t know that.

** I know the “Ted Kennedy has endured so much tragedy” angle is as cliched as it gets, but when you see it all put together at once, it’s still breathtaking in its sadness. Brother Joe and sister Kathleen die early in his life. Brother John murdered while President. Then Teddy nearly dies in a plane crash. Four years later, other brother Robert shot while running for President. Then Ted’s son gets bone cancer and has to have leg amputated. It’s just staggering.

The man is truly indestructible, like the knight in the famous Monty Python sketch who gets his legs and arms cut off in a fight then screams, “Come back, it’s only a flesh wound!”

** I find it sad that Chappaquiddick has almost become an afterthought in the Kennedy legacy. A woman died. Kennedy drove off a bridge, escaped, tried to save her, then went back to his room and never reported that she was down there. Truly horrible, despicable behavior. I like so much of what Kennedy has done as a senator, but it’s really hard to respect him as a man after what happened in July of 1969.

**Also found it interesting that during the 1970s busing crisis in Boston, Kennedy was a pariah. He was booed and pelted with debris because he actually supported interracial school busing.

I came away with more admiration and respect for both 20th century giants after seeing this. Check them out if you have the chance.

P.S. The link on the Ted Williams reference above is to an Esquire story by Richard Ben Cramer, and it’s one of the single greatest pieces of sportswriting ever. If you have 20 minutes, it’s definitely worth your time.