Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Hockey Coach Versus Baseball Coach

May 19, 2017

I love the sport of baseball.  I grew up playing it in the park and
then one day I spent the night at a friend’s house and went with him
to his little league practice.  The coach of that team told my mom he
would pay my fee if she would let me play.  I wasn’t on my way to the
Dodgers but I was slightly above average and a good pitcher.  When I
go to see my stepson, it brings me back to those days.  My stepson
plays baseball and ice hockey.  I happen to be his hockey coach and so
when I sit in the stands and watch the ball game, I try to just take
it in.
The baseball coach is a local dad who often holds a Starbucks
purchased mug with a top.  Draped over the top of the mug are two or
three tags attached to tea bags.  He sits in the dug out and
encourages kids who are swinging at definite balls and not strikes.
“Good cut, babe…  Don’t help him out now.  Wait for your pitch…  Good
swing now.”
My girlfriend laughed at my coaching style with junior high aged boys
and giggled at the rah-rah nature of  the baseball coach.  Here is how
my pregame speech goes.
Big G is bullying kids in the locker room.  It is all verbal but
nonetheless.  I is the son of my assistant.  His hair is down to his
shoulders and his dad is bald.  I is prone to fucking off before games
too.  I and Big G are not anywhere near dressed for the game.  I come
twenty minutes before the game and give my disclaimer.
“For those of you not dressed in the next few minutes and out in the
hallway stickhandling, you can sit the entire first period.  You think
I’m bullshiting you?  Five minutes…”
Miraculously they are all dressed and taking turns warming up their
hands with a weighted ball.  I take a racquet ball and throw it off of
the wall for the goalie to get warmed up.  When the Zamboni hits the
ice, we go back to the locker room for the final pep talk before
hitting the ice.
“These little bastards have the same access to the league website as
you.  They see you are undefeated and are not going to come in here
and not try.  They know they will have to try harder than ever to beat
the best team in the league.  This is like tug of war.  You pull fast
and hard and get them face first in the shit…  How do you end a
fistfight most of the time?  Who knows?”
One of the guys whose nut hadn’t dropped yet answers.  He is four
feet tall with hair down to his shoulders and has a smile like Jack
Nicholson in The Shining.  He leads the team in penalty minutes and is
the one most likely to hit someone hard.  E is the son of Argentinian
immigrants.  He plays violin and is sadistic.  E answers first.
“Throw the first punch…”
“That’s it…  You hit first, while they’re trying to get their shit
together, you’ve already landed a blow.  Get that first goal.  Fucking
bury them and then we can just play catch when it is running time.
Are we clear?  Remember…  Your goalie is a boy with goalie equipment
and not a goalie.  He just started this sport and it will be your job
to pretend like you have an empty net behind you…  Recap…  No shots,
punch first, pull them face down in the shit…  When you have them by
the nuts, squeeze hard.”
The first period was listless.  The team looked at an under 500 team
and felt that a half speed effort would be enough.  The speech between
the first and second period went like this…
“You all are skating like a bunch of zombies…  Chip the puck into the
neutral zone, gain the centerline, dump it deep and fore check like
you might kill them.  You’re all waddling in like you’re walking out
to right field.  You give their D a chance to get the puck and make a
smart option, they will.  Take that time from them…  Wake up or I will
find 5 guys willing to play this game the way it should be played and
the rest of you can sit and watch.”
Big G tied up the center in a face off in the other team’s zone.  It
is a designed play where the center is tied up and the Defense walks
in and shoots the puck.  We scored on that.  An astute ref would call
interference.  Most of the time they don’t.  The game was close until
the third period and then we broke it open.  Kids got the puck in
deep, worked it back to the point and crashed the net.  After the game
I gave my post game speech.
“We should have buried this team.  They should have had the puck much
less than they did.  You guys forgot how to push yourselves but
tomorrow at practice, we are going to take a little time and remember
to push hard.  You’re tired, the puck squeaks out to the neutral zone,
your gassed and on a break away.  That’s where you find it within you
to finish.  I’m going to help you with that tomorrow.  I don’t want to
hear you have baseball or ballet or whatever.  Your ballet coach
doesn’t give a shit about me and I don’t give a damn about them.
Baseball is barely a sport.  Be here tomorrow.”
C, my stepson had a baseball game the day after the practice.  His
jovial coach gave his post game speech after the team got spanked
18-2.  I’m not going to judge him.  We all have our ways.  I could
hear the post-game talk from the dug out.
“Guys…  I saw some really positive things tonight.  We have to work
on our hitting, fielding, catching and pitching.  I’m not going to lie
to you all.  This was a rough game.  It will get better.  Keep your
chins up.  See you all at practice.”
Was it because a fat child was put at first base that could not bend
far enough to field ground balls?  Was it because the coach’s son
walked in ten runs?  Maybe it was that kids didn’t know how many outs
there were, dropped third strikes, missed cutoff men and a gross
inability to catch and hit.  In the car, the question was posed to me-
how would you have handled this loss?  Answer- a whole lot different.

Nashville and Ottawa- How does that sound to you?

Slapshot quote of the day- “When I yank it everyone with the exception
of my wife will be running for the exits…”

The Emperor’s New Clothes or F#ck the Cubs

October 28, 2016

Gil and Gail packed up their deviled eggs and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that they bought while in New Zealand and headed over to their friends Tom and Tam. It was a beautiful fall night more like summer than fall with a full moon. The event was a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. Tom, a huge Cubs fan, set up a television outside in front of a fire pit and a trampoline off in the distance.
Gil was born and raised in Los Angeles and was a life long Dodgers fan stranded in the midwest. He walked past a teacher’s union lawn sign and three different lawn signs for Hillary Clinton and a giant blue W painted on a plain white background to signify a win for the Chicago Cubs on the way to Tom and Gail’s backyard. Gail and Tam really liked one another. They met at a Pilates class and became great friends. They watched the Kardashians together at different homes and texted about it at night. Their sons played youth hockey together and Gil was the hockey coach. Gil was quiet owner of an ice hockey pro shop who played hockey, sold hockey and played hockey four to five days a week. Gil and Tammy’s son was thin and good-looking, fast and capable at being a scoring threat at every game. Tom and Tam’s son had man boobs and hips wider than his shoulders. The bookish son of Tom and Tam was slow and had a weak shot. Gil took their son as a favor to his wife who really wanted a friend up in the stands to sit with at games. Tom was jealous that Gil was in good shape and was a good skater and coach. Tom couldn’t skate but was wealthy and had season tickets to all Cubs and Chicago Blackhawks games. Tom was a partner at a law firm and drove a Range Rover and a Corvette with personalized Cubs and Blackhawks Illinois license plates. One license said PWR PLAY 69 and the other said LUV CUB 69. Gil had no hair, was built and had a half missing tooth much like the hockey great Alex Ovechkin and a face full of scars from years of playing ice hockey without facial protection. Gil refused to wear a cage or a half shield while playing and looked like a rough neck. Tom wore black horned rimmed glasses and had looked like an LL Bean model in front of his $5000.00 built in backyard grill, 50 inch television exclusively for the backyard and excellent sound system. A band from the 1980’s called Haircut 100 blared through the speakers while the ball teams silently  took batting practice. Gil stood with a bowl of deviled eggs in a LA Dodgers hat and shirt. Tom wore a Cubs hat with a T-shirt that had a large W on it. He was cooking filet mignon, he offered Gil a beer. Gil declined as he was gluten-free. It irritated Gil when Tom would offer him a beer. Even though Gil had declined dozens of times, Tom would still offer a beer to Gil. Gil had Ceiliaks disease which prevented him from processing gluten properly.
“Tam remembered and purchased a gluten-free, lesbian safe beer for you from Trader Joe’s… You can be like every other man around this town watching this game tonight and start the night properly with a beer.”
Gil opened the beer, tapped it against the bottle Tom was holding and talked about their son’s hockey team. Gil was careful not to say too much and let Tom comment on the high and low points of the season.
“The goalie is brutal… It is truly a testament to your defense that we’ve been in every game. Do you put your best skaters on defense always?”
Gil took a drink of his beer and pondered the best answer to a question he didn’t care to answer truthfully. Gil felt that it was a good idea to be as cryptic as possible with parents when it came to playing time, position and lines. Gil played Tom and Tam’s son on the first line even though he was a slow, tentative, ineffective player. It was a political move to appease his wife who was considering her friend’s feelings.
“I try to find a balance…”
“That is a beautifully scripted answer, coach. People try to figure out where you’re coming from. They want to know if there is something deeper to your tactics. I think mystery comes off as deep but I think I have you figured out, coach…”
“Tommy… This is a night all about baseball. I’m ready to take the night off of hockey. A full moon, great fucking weather, good food, booze and the Dodgers poised to make a California boy proud…”
Beer turned to scotch and then to wine. Bottles and bottles. Blue cheese on choice steaks with gluten-free pasta. It was a night to remember. A clear, full moon and August like weather in October. The game turned ugly for Gil. The Dodgers tanked and were getting crushed by the Cubs. It was a debacle not unlike when Gil was young and the Dodgers would lose every year to the Yankees. It might have been a moment of hurt pride that caused Gil to change from a good-natured fan to a critical observer of the type of man he disdained- bragging, rich, unathletic, pudgy Chicago fan. The Dodgers were losing by a touch down when Tom lit a cigar and laughed at the score between innings. Gil told Gail that he wanted to leave. she was having a great time without having to watch her children and she did not want to cut the night short and return home yet. The game ended with a huge Cubs win. Tam put on a song that harkened back to Burt Bacharach buy a band called Cousteau. No relation to Jacques called, The Last Good Day of the Year.
There’s something there
Among the fallen fruit and flowers, won’t rest
Only minutes, only hours unless
Now the morning breaks in showers, I guess
We’ll remember this all of our lives
On the last good day of the year
Gil sat and looked at the full moon as a gentle breeze blew through the leaves in the trees that were ready to turn colors and fall. Tom was going on and on about the Cubs and then switched to politics. After a beer, a scotch and many glasses of wine, Gil was ready to speak freely, uninhibited or reserved. Tom was taken by surprise.
“Fuck you. Fuck the Cubs, fuck unions, fuck Hillary and fat kids who really don’t want to play ice hockey… Enjoy your win you fucking pompous asshole. I hope Hillary gets the same fucking treatment Nixon got for the minor shit he did compared to that cunt.”
Gil knew that his wife hated the word cunt and that most women had a thing against the word. Both Tam and Gail gasped and tried to get Gil to calm down. It only made him angrier.
“You want to let all the Mexicans in? All the Syrians? Every fucking moderate who makes their wife cover their whole fucking face like a goddamn Ninja? Fuck you and your W shirt and Hillary lawn sign… Your kid is going to wind up with heart disease by high school if you don’t discover the word no. No you can’t eat whatever you want and drink sugary bullshit. Your son has bitch tits… I know that might be harsh to hear but you can thank the Cubs and Hillary. Bitch fucking tits on a 10-year-old and why? Because you can’t say no to him? You wanna know why my kid is fast? Because he eats yogurt instead of gummy worms and fucking Doritos…”
” I think you’re angry Tom…”
“Yes, I am. When unathletic fucks like you gloat, I get mad. You don’t know dick about how to really win and it falls into your lap tonight and you’re like a fucking scientist about baseball. Yes… The fast capable kids play defense on my teams and really I believe your son would be happier with a hot dog and a drink up in the stands next to you than forechecking. You got season tickets and you want your little son of sam to play like Kane or Toews.”
Gail came up and hugged Gil and put her hand over his mouth. Gil pushed Gail away in a way that let her know that he was not done. Tom had enough drinks to stand up to Gil and he did.
“You’re mad that the Dodgers lost and that Trump is about to go down in flames. Too many people do not buy into the Hitleresque bullshit spewed by Trump. Mexicans are the paste that holds this country together. Who is going to do the shit they do for the money they make? Big strong, stupid, flag waving, tear-in-the-eye patriot who hates anything not white. You’re the big hockey coach but you weren’t quite good enough to make it so what do you do? You coach.”
Gil took a step towards Tom with the thought to give Tom a smack. Tom sneered and raised his chin as if to say, “smack me! I don’t give a shit.”
“You know something, fuckface? I won’t ever apologize for being white. I won’t ever apologize for not blindly trusting people who hate me. Vote for whoever you fucking want. Why do we all got to know who it is? Why not put up a lawn sign that says you need a little blue pill and porn to make it with your old lady? You know what? All I need is a little text telling me to get home fast and my dick hurts to be cramped up in my jeans knowing that it’s going between my old lady’s legs just as soon as possible. You like baseball analogies? I’m the fucking closer who doesn’t need a warm up pitch. Put me in cold and I’ll finish the game…”
The women left the two men alone who were about to come to blows. Tom was about to rebut Gil when the women put on a song from the 1980’s from their youth. It was a Sinead O’Connor song called The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the light of the moon, the two men watched their rather fit middle-aged wives sing and bounce on the trampoline naked slathered in coconut oil. The oil glistened off of their breasts. The men stopped fighting and looked on at their wives without saying a word. Tom poured a glass of wine for himself and Gil. The men stripped down to nothing and joined the ladies on the trampoline on probably the last good day of the year. The song played on repeat while they made love or something resembling love beside one another.
Everyone can see what’s going on
They laugh `cause they know they’re untouchable
Not because what I said was wrong
Whatever it may bring
I will live by my own policies
I will sleep with a clear conscience
I will sleep in peace
Maybe it sounds mean
But I really don’t think so
You asked for the truth and I told you
Through their own words
They will be exposed
They’ve got a severe case of
The emperor’s new clothes

Baseball is not a Sport or Vishnu at the Plate

April 7, 2011

Vishnu Patel was able to anonymously come to the United States without having to wear a scarlet letter or fear for his life so much. In India, Vishnu Patel was simply known as Vishnu since Patel is about as common a name as Jones is in the ghetto.
Vishnu was a Cricket playing prodigy who was a fast bowler. Bowling is much akin to pitching a baseball and has nothing to do with the sport of bowling even though Vishnu came to love that over time upon moving to the United States.
Vishnu was a rich young man in India. He could bowl fast and spin the ball so that when it hit the ground, it would bounce like a superball. Vishnu was sponsored by all sorts of companies that wanted his name on cricket bats. He was in songs and in movies and drove sports cars and had a big home. At bat, Vishnu easily scored and had several centuries meaning that while at bat, he scored over 100 points all by himself. Vishnu was the Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky, Brett Favre and Babe Ruth rolled into one. Like the Hindu god of the same name, Vishnu seemed to walk on water but like all mortals he had something about him that tarnished him in the eyes of Indians; homosexuality.
Vishnu had kept his secret under close wraps in India. He was always seen in public with a pretty girl. It was during a test match in Australia that he was photographed dancing and kissing another man in a gay night club. Vishnu had crushed his supporters upon the revelation that he was in fact homosexual. There were death threats and Vishnu’s kept man and he fled the country in 2008.
Endorsements dried up and Vishnu fled for the United States for fear that he would be killed or jailed. There was a fear among Indian parents that perhaps their sons might deem homosexuality as something that would be, “not so bad” because the great Vishnu fancied lads.
Vishnu took whatever money he had left and bought a Tim Horton’s franchise right outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Tim Horton’s was quickly becoming the biggest Canadian export after beer. Vishnu was satisfied being just another Indian in America. People mistook him for a cab driver and a computer technician but nobody recognized him as a former great cricket player except one sports columnist who wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Tim Jones, who never lived in the ghetto by the way, relished being a thorn in the side of the Cleveland Indians. It was Tim Jones who recognized the former star who single handedly decimated the West Indies Cricket Club in Barbados. Jones was on had to witness Vishnu’s feat. Vishnu had five wickets as a bowler and batted over a century to defeat the West Indies more or less, by himself. Tim Jones went after the Cleveland Indian’s front office in his column. Here is what he had to say:
“Chief Wahoo should have a tear in his eye just like the crying Indian from the early 1970’s commercial who was saddened and dismayed by what had become of his land. What has become of Chief Wahoo’s Indians? If the Cavs and Browns don’t make you cry, maybe this year’s Indians will. A mere 9,000 fans managed to make it out to see their team win 7-1 against the Chicago White Sox. David Hasslehoff might draw more than that if he were to perform at Progressive Field. If you didn’t hear it already, the Indians turned their first triple play since 2008 on Sunday. It is nothing like the front office’s triple play of getting rid of their three best players and expecting a dwindling population to step up and pay to see a shell of what once was a proud franchise. Proud like an Indian. Speaking of Indians, most of you would never know this but one of the best players to have ever played the sport of cricket owns Tim Horton franchises right here in the state of Ohio, right in the city of Cleveland. I’d be willing to bet my wigwam and teepee that The Great Vishnu could save the franchise single handedly. Picture any of our current has-beens or never-will-bees pitching like Cliff Lee and batting like a healthy Grady Sizemore. I throw out the challenge to Mr. Patel and Mr. Acta. Do something different. Bring back the crowds. Let an Indian, a real Indian save the Indians from oblivion. Wipe that tear from Chief Wahoo’s cheek and restore that stupid smile once again.”
Everyone who read Mr. Jones’ column knew that he was brutal on sports teams in Cleveland and knew that the Cleveland Indians held the most promise of success in the city of Cleveland before losing several players who may one day end up in the baseball hall of fame. Tim Jones caught up with Vishnu and was surprised what he had to say about the sport of baseball. Vishnu had laid down the gauntlet.
“Meester Tim… I dawn vant to put dawn dee national pastime of a nation but ven I pass by parks and I see over-vait, middle aged men hitting a beach ball, under hand at a speed dat ees barely able to support it in dee air, I liken eet to a hunter tracking a cow. How caan you meese shooting a grazing cow who looks at you stupidly vile lining up her head weeth a scope? Now hitting a baseball might be a tad more difficult but eet ees naught cricket. Cricket ees a sport. Baseball ees a hobby.”
Native Clevelanders or rather white people and blacks who were once owned by whites, who have resided on indigenous people’s land that were mistaken by Christopher Columbus for Indians, were indignant by the brazen comments of Vishnu. It was one thing for Americans residing in Cleveland to attack their own team and their own beloved sport; it was another thing to have a gay foreigner verbally bitch slap baseball. Vishnu had no choice but to face those who loved baseball and the Indians.
Vishnu studied tapes of baseball for a few days and even watched some games on ESPN before contacting Tim Jones to set up a meeting between him and the Cleveland Indians. If you can imagine this, Progressive Field sold out every seat in the stadium to watch the exhibition between a former cricket great and professional baseball players. The Cleveland Indian front office loved the publicity.
Vishnu emerged from a tunnel wearing a collared shirt that had the letters, INDIA across the front with his name on the back with the number 13. Vishnu swung his arm in a circle a few times before facing the first batter. Manny Acta sent up a pitcher to face Vishnu. Vishnu came running up from second base, hit the mound and threw the ball in a windmill fashion, delivering a pitch that did not bounce. A 160 km/h fastball or damn near 100 miles an hour pitch for a strike. The speed gun registered 101 mph. The pitch twisted in the air and dropped like it fell off a cliff. Vishnu struck out two pitchers, then two batters that would be lucky to pinch run and then some real big fish. The guys that might make more than entire population of the average worker in the city of Cleveland combined. One of the bonus babies got a few foul tips before being felled. It was then Vishnu’s turn to come to the plate. Vishnu stood on the plate as though he was protecting a wicket. He wore what looked like a jockey’s helmet with a protective grill with gloves and leg guards that one might find on a goalie in ice hockey. Vishnu whacked everything that came his way whether it was a strike or a ball. The last pitch was an 85 mile an hour fastball. Vishnu took two steps towards the pitch and knocked it into the right field stands where a group of Indian expatriates were banging drums, waving an Indian flag with painted faces. Vishnu carried his bat with him as he would have in cricket as he rounded the bases. Backwards.
It would be fair to surmise that baseball fans, The Cleveland Indians and Americans in general felt badly about the publicity stunt and that would be correct. Upon signing Vishnu to a multi-year contract as a relief pitcher and designated hitter, the Indians suddenly began to win and fans returned to Progressive Field. After a while nobody seemed to notice or care that their star player was not only not American or a baseball player, that he was gay too. As Americans often like to say to one another: Only in America.

Tourette’s Meets TSA

January 10, 2010

Lester Vandermere was born and raised in Warren, Michigan. Lester’s parents dropped Lester off with his mother’s parents as a toddler before they took off to concentrate on other things that interested them more about life such as drugs and stealing to buy drugs and so on. Luckily for Lester, he had grandparents that really loved him and treated Lester as their own.
At a young age, they began to notice some quirky things about Lester that they had not noticed with their own children or anyone else’s for that matter. Lester had the ability to mimic voices of just about anyone he heard around him and if it was particularly unique, Lester imitated the voice until some other voice caught his fancy. Lester too spent his time straightening things in his room to the point of exhaustion. Poor Lester would eventually just pass out as a young boy and it was rarely on his bed but on the floor while he was in the middle of correcting something he had already corrected such as color coordinating clothes or hanging them by size or alphabetically arranging baseball cards.
Baseball for as slow as it should be for a child diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, ADHD and Tourette Syndrome, Baseball should have been like watching grass grow but it wasn’t that way with Lester. It was one of the few times he could sit in a chair without involuntary vocal outbursts, twitching or blinking. Lester’s grandfather took Lester to see the Detroit Tigers a lot and then got the idea to buy over 100 rubber coated league baseballs and paint a target in the backyard.
“All you gotta do is aim for this target and throw that ball as hard as you can… Now granddad wants you to occasionally hold the ball across the seams like so and then turn your hand like this when releasing the ball. Once you’ve thrown all these call me,” said Lester’s grandfather.
This began at about age eight and continued everyday irregardless of weather or season. Lester threw baseballs at a target on a fence everyday for hours and never grew tired of it. At age ten, Lester’s grandfather signed him up for little league baseball in Warren. The first day Lester ever got to pitch, he had the first perfect game ever recorded by a first time pitcher in his first game in the state of Michigan. Lester made the front page of the Detroit Free Press. Over time Lester continued to improve and never grew tired of throwing baseballs at a target. By Lester’s sophomore year of high school, colleges all over the country were offering him full scholarships. More than one Major League Baseball club sent a representative to watch Lester pitch for his high school. Lester could pitch a curve ball that looked like it dropped off a table just before arriving at home plate, faster than most men could throw a fastball. Lester’s fastball was unbelievably fast for a fifteen year old boy. Between pitches, Lester would have to pick up the rosin bag and bounce it twice on the back of his left hand and twice on the palm before yelling out profanity, wooing and heavy blinking. He was more amusing than Mark Fydrich ever was for the Detroit Tigers.
“Three pitches, fat ass! Three pitches… You get three fucking pitches, fat boy…”
Strike one. A belt high fastball that hovered around 95 miles per hour. The batter attempted to swing and was frozen.
“That’s one, bitch boy… Two more… Two more, you fat fuck…”
Strike two. Slightly lower than the first but above the knees right down the center of the plate at about 96 miles per hour. The catcher wore a padded batter’s glove inside his catcher’s mitt. The second pitch cracked as it hit the webbing of the catcher’s mitt.
“Just standing there with his thumb in his ass… Ha, ha, Lovie… Gilligan m’boy… Mere child’s play… Drown them all like puppies… Jimbo, let’s discuss all the options, son… Out of the way! Road hog!”
Lester loved imitating the voice of Jim Backus who was the voice of Mr. Magoo, the millionaire on Gilligan’s Island and the father of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. Lester strung quotes from all three as he bounced the rosin bag on his left hand prior to throwing a curve ball that dropped about 18 inches at 88 miles per hour. The stands were packed and everyone stood and clapped with every strike out. The ovations were just white noise in the head of a talented young man whose mind was locked on Jim Backus at the moment. Television will do that to children, you know.
“Oh Magoo, you’ve done it again… Marvelous Gilligan, m’boy. Go get Ginger and tell her I’d like to drive her like a five iron… Pull a little to the left but play through it, Gilligan… Drive it right through the rough patches, m’boy…”
Some days Lester might take on the voice of Foghorn Leghorn, Jack Nicholson, George W. Bush, Marlon Brando. He might imitate the laugh of Charles Nelson Reilly or the faces of Robert de Niro. Lester’s grandparents were used to it and paid little attention. What did not go unnoticed were Lester’s grandfather’s racist comments. In school all the kids laughed at the unique voices and racist words that spouted from Lester’s mouth as his mind committed things to memory and replayed them often and randomly.
“Smithers! What is with all of these fat children?” As the voice of Mr. Burns from the Simpson.
“Now folks, we’re fixing to round up all the wet backs, chinks, pork chops, niggers, sand niggers, swami’s, snake charmers and the whole lot of them and send them to ah… send them to ah… California! That’s right. Send them to live with Arnold…”
And just like that he went from sounding like George W. Bush to Arnold Swartznegger.
“Commin-zee to Camp Cal-if-forn-ia… Veel help you to concentrate… In our camp…. Hee aye aye aye…. Ya… Dat vas a gut fun…”
One teacher learned that if she gave Lester a whole pack of gum to chew, it cut down on outbursts and tics. The rest just had to tune it out the best they could. The fact of the matter is that if you have a talent like savant, people tend to be very forgiving and most understood that for as unusual as it was for Lester to have not only Tourette’s but to also be Obsessive-Compulsive and have ADHD, he also had the ability to imitate voices and gestures and pitch a baseball unlike any young man his age. Lester barring any unforeseen problems was going to become a rich and famous young man soon. Everyone respected this.
Lester’s grandmother gave Lester the news, the night before leaving, that they would be going to southern California to visit several colleges that offered scholarships. Lester’s grandmother knew better than to tell him earlier. If she had told him a week in advance, he would have been packed and waiting at the door without sleep for that entire week. The night before leaving for Los Angeles, Lester’s grandmother packed a suitcase full of Lester’s clothes. Lester was obviously upset that the order of his things was being disrupted without any prior discussion. Lester took on the voice of Peter Lorre.
“Oh thees ees most disturbing… I’m not going to hurt you, my leetle friend… Don’t worry… Tell the fat man that I must have the Maltese Falcon… Eet ees most imperative that the fat man call me thees instant…”
Lester began to put away the clothes that were in the suitcase when his grandmother stopped him and sat him down to explain where they were going in the morning. Lester was so excited that he couldn’t sleep. He stayed up all night watching the MLB station and reruns on TVLand.
Lester and his grandparents arrived at the Detroit Metro Airport at seven in the morning two weeks after a terrorist tried to blow up the Detroit bound plane he was on and three days after another man claimed that he wanted to kill all Jews before boarding a plane in Detroit. Now picture a tall and lanky young man with pimples on his face, talking non stop, all the while changing voices and facial expressions. It had been a few days since Lester had watched the movie, Slapshot with Paul Newman. Lester spewed out lines from the movie while standing in the TSA security line.
“You naver naver want to take your stick like thees unless you are a stupid English pig… You go to the box and feel shame and then you go free… FAT ASS! WOO! You ever see so many niggers trying to get something for nothing? If it isn’t nailed down, you bet your sweet ass the niggers will have it,” said Lester, imitating his grandfather’s voice and facial expressions.
Luckily for the Vandermeres, there were no African-Americans within an ear shot of them except for the TSA official who was looking at passports, licenses and boarding passes. Mr. Caruthers, the TSA official was as shocked as he was angry about hearing such blatantly racist comments coming from the young man whose grandmother was rubbing his arm, telling him that he needed to talk about something else. It came time for the three of them to step up and give their credentials to Mr. Caruthers.
Mr. Caruthers was a large and strongly built black man with a deep voice. The voice reminded Lester of the times his grandfather would lower his voice and do an imitation of Amos and Andy. Lester’s grandparents feared something bad could happen and it was happening.
“How is yaw, Kingfish? How you be thaar, Kingfish? Now see haar… How’s Calpurnia?”
The three of them were herded into a room and questioned for about a half hour by several federal officials. One of the men recognized Lester from the newspaper and believed all that Lester’s grandparents were trying to explain about Lester’s quirks and outbursts. Lester signed an autograph on a piece of paper for the federal official who was a big baseball fan and had heard that Lester was one the top prospects coming up. Lester and his grandparents boarded the plane first and took the last three seats all the way in the back. Lester was thumbing through a baseball book that his grandmother had given him for Christmas. Everyone came in and took their seats and everything seemed as if it were going to be mostly copasetic all the way to Los Angeles until a young Italian man muttered under his breath to his brother, loud enough for Lester to hear. The Italian man was distinctly from Brooklyn. Both men had slicked back black hair and were chewing their gum in a loud circular motion, wearing tight faded jeans and t shirts that were too tight for both of them. It was perfect ammunition for Lester who had become calm despite being excited and apprehensive about his first flight on a plane.
“You ask me what they should fucking do is let the fucking Chinese run the fucking airports for about a year. The fucking Chinese don’t put up with no shit. You ever see this kind of shit happen in China? Fuck no! Let one of these A-rab cocksuckers pull this shit with the fucking Chinese. You’d never hear a fucking word about em again. In this country you’re like a goddamn celebrity. Wanna get on TV? Light your fucking balls on fire on a plane and you’ll wind up getting three square meals for the rest of your days in a goddamn prison and we get to pay for this shit… Let one of these fucks pull a box cutter or a crotch bomb on this flight… I’ll tear their fucking hearts out.”
Upon hearing the rant, Lester once again became unglued. After being detained again and having to face more federal officials and then meet with a psychiatrist and a string of social workers, the Vandermeres were allowed to go back home. It took all day and they were exhausted. Lester’s grandmother laid into her husband for ever saying anything questionable in front of Lester. Lester slept fleetingly as they drove west. After nearly a week on the road, they arrived in Los Angeles. Lester met alone with the athletic director who had originally played baseball in Hoboken in the minor leagues and grew up in the Bronx. The older man, who looked like he could have fit in with the cast of the Sopranos, extended his hand and asked Lester about the flight not knowing that they drove. Lester more or less repeated the words of the Italian man from the airplane. Lester’s grandparents listened outside the office to the hardy laugh of the athletic director that became nothing more than a wheeze and a whistle when he became too out of breath to laugh anymore. The door opened and the big man with cigars for fingers patted Lester on the back and shook the hands of Lester’s grandparents. Lester and his grandparents got into the minivan and headed onto the next school. The athletic director called the baseball coach on the phone to discuss Lester.
“The kid looks like nothing more than a corn seed… Yeah, yeah, I heard all about his problem before he got here. He had me nearly pissing in my pants… He looked at me making faces like Robert de Niro and spoke like Al Pacino for twenty minutes. I don’t know if he did that because he knows I’m Italian but it was very funny… Sure, sure. He’ll make the hall of fame some day and then take his voices on the road. I’d like to be there when he wins the World Series one day and gets invited to the White House to shake hands with the president. That’ll be one for the ages…”