It was my first year of High School. I’d made the Junior Varsity Football team, the JV Basketball team, and the JV Baseball team. Back then not everyone who tried out made the team, unlike today. But that’s another story.

This story takes place on the baseball field. I remember it being cloudy, and kinda cool. I was one of two first-basemen and we were having batting practice. Batting practice consisted of one guy placing a ball into the pitching machine and the coach “coaching” each player as they took turns batting. The machine was on a tripod and had two big rubber wheels that would spin crazy fast. You put the ball in a shoot and the wheels would shoot it out at about 75 miles per hour. Ffffffoooop. Right across the plate. Every time. Coach Ace (not his real name) asked me to man the machine. Ffffffoooop. Smack! Hit! The players in the field would then field the balls that were hit. Easy. Ffffffoooop. Swing and a miss. Ffffffoooop.

The initial buzz of maning the machine quickly turned to boredom. One of the pitchers was next to me catching the balls the fielders were throwing back in. Ffffffoooop. The pitcher was talking to me as I was loading the next ball Ffffffoooop. Crack. Hit. Ffffffoooop. I turned for just a second to watch a great hit and automatically loaded the next ball…Ffffffoooop. I turned and stared in horror…. Coach Ace was standing at the plate giving the batter instructions. Time slowed down as I watched the 75 miles per hour fast ball hit the Coach right in the balls! I was horrified. You could have heard a pin drop on that field. When the coach was able to stand back up he Angrily yelled at me to get my ass to the locker room. I ran all the way.

Coach Ace was kind of a dick. Not a very nice guy. The Varsity guys who had him when they were JV’s hated him. As I sat scared of the unknown in that locker room, I heard the door burst open and the sound of cleats clacking on the floor. It was the Varsity catcher, he yelled out “Who pegged Ace?” I had to smile. It had been an accident, but no one believed me. I was a hero. Everyone wanted to congratulate me.

Coach Ace had calmed down by the time practice was over, and his scolding was rather tame. I’d like to think I rode the bench that year because of my accident, but I’ll never know.

Photo: pitchingmachines.us

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I’m flicking back and forth between “The Mentalist” and “The Big Bang Theory” . I’m out of cigars, so I’m smoking a Black and Mild. As I stare at the cursor flashing at me, daring me to write something original, I catch a whiff of the little cigar. It’s sweet, pipe tobacco actually. Immediately, I think of my friend Steve. We spent hours in his basement office sharing stories, talking of books and movies and women. Steve always smoked Black and Milds. Fylo, his cat would jump from Steve’s desk to mine looking for attention. It seems so long ago, those care free days hanging with Steve and Fylo. Fylo passed unexpectedly in 2008 and Steve met a great lady and moved to South Carolina. I haven’t seen him in years, though I think about him often. After Fylo passed I made this video slideshow for Steve.

If you’re still reading the Blog, I miss you bro.

Make sure your sound is on.

17

April 16, 2012

I had an excellent childhood, two loving parents, and I was a good kid. I didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Not yet. I would eventually dabble in all three, but that’s another story for another time. I was 17 and invincible.  I was a football player, and at that age, I couldn’t fathom how fragile the human body really is. I couldn’t possibly understand that we are only here for a cosmic blink of an eye.

There were two passengers with me. Both friends of mine. Both a year younger. We’d been out playing miniature golf at Putt Putt. We were running late getting home, and I didn’t want to be late. I didn’t want to disappoint, to…take advantage of the trust I had with my parents. None of us were wearing seat belts.

It was summer and I remember the heat. It was so damn hot, oppressively hot and muggy. I remember making a right down Glasgow Drive. I’ve no idea how fast I was driving. I remembered too late the curve at the end of the street, and I was driving too fast to make it safely. I remember trying to brake, turning the wheel, willing the car to stop. I remember twisting my body, gripping the steering wheel with both hands at the “12 O’ Clock” position and I remember thinking “this is gonna hurt”.

I remember a loud boom as the car hit the tree, then nothing…then…I heard static…the radio. Someone pulled me from the wreckage. To this day, I’ve no idea who. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked around. One of my friends was lying on the ground beside me. I grabbed his hand, squeezed and tried to tell him everything would be ok.  His eyes were wide open. he didn’t respond. He was in shock.

I could hear the sirens getting closer. I couldn’t seem make my eyes focus and my nose was running. I reached up to wipe it and my hand came away bloody. My nose felt like mashed potatoes. I thought it was weird that it didn’t hurt. Now I knew why my vision was blurry. I’m pretty sure the cops arrived first. Officer Brown questioned me. I told him I was the driver, we were on our way home. No we hadn’t been drinking. No we don’t do drugs. I gave him my licence. I told him to keep it, that I wouldn’t be needing it again. I felt sure my parents would never let me drive again. He laughed and told me to hang onto it anyway.

I knew my leg was broken. It was numb, I couldn’t move it, and it was doing a very unnatural “U” turn. Weird that it didn’t hurt. Yet.

By this time the paramedics had arrived and had begun working on me. I tried to cooperate but I wanted to know where my other friend was. I kept asking about him and i was meet by blank stares. “We’re working on you. We don’t know about him.” I told them his dad was a Captain on the police force, but I couldn’t get any answers from them. My heart sank. I felt sick, like I was going to throw up. “He’s dead”, I thought. “I killed him”.

As they put me in the ambulance, I remember feeling very cold, and thinking how amazing these people were who were working on me. They were sweating, I could see it. All the way to the hospital all I could think about was the friend I had killed. That and how it was weird that I didn’t feel any pain.

This is a true story. I publish it now because I have a niece who is turning 16 and is learning to drive. I don’t hold much hope that it will make much difference. I doubt hearing this story would have made any difference to my 17 year old self. But if just one person passes this story and pictures on to their kid and it makes them slow down…

The pain finally came, and stayed for months. My other friend lived. They had to cut him out of the car. He was lodged between the passenger seat and the passenger door. He had been ridding in the back seat. I cannot begin to describe to you how it feels to think you killed someone. I hope no one ever has to feel that.

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Ted

March 28, 2012

When I was growing up I had a friend named Ted who lived next door.  I can see him now, a little chubby, kinda like “Chunk” from Goonies, but he had a short military style hair cut. Ted was fun to play with but he didn’t live next to us for very long, his Dad was a minister and evidently, they moved a lot. Anyway, what I remember most was how Ted’s mom used to call Ted in when we were all playing out side. She’d stand on the porch and yell out slowly “Ted…time to go to bed!” Now you have to imagine the most West Virginia or North Carolina country person you know, and then in their voice, in your mind, say it again. “Ted…time to go to bed!”

I’m sure we teased him mercilessly but I believe if Ted knew the truth he’d be having the last laugh. The truth is, I think of Ted often because when my dad wanted us to remember which way to turn the hose off he’d say turn it toward’s Ted’s house. I’ve never forgotten that. No matter where I am, no matter whose spigot I turn on, when I turn it off I think of Ted, and I smile and think “Ted…time to go to bed!”

Right Said Ted

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Memories of good Sax

March 27, 2012

I went out front to take pictures of my Dogwood tree blooming. It was a beautiful, cloudless day. The sun was low but not yet going down. As I started taking close-ups of the flowering petals, a sound drifted to me on the slight breeze…sounds…like…Jingle Bells?

Somewhere, close by in the neighborhood, a young music student was practicing his or her Saxophone outside.

What memories that sound recalled. As a kid, I had long arms and the music teacher suggested I play the trombone. I did, but I was always a bit envious of my brother who chose the clarinet, which led him to the saxophone. I remember going out into my front yard and blasting that silly horn. Playing the theme from M.A.S.H., and yes, probably Jingle Bells. The memory makes me smile. I should call my brother. Tell him I’m thinking of him. I hope he doesn’t mind I’m using his picture.

Sax Player '78

Click to enlarge

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