Category Archives: friendship

The Triple: Third Time’s a Charm

Brand-new t-shirt with the original litho. Thanks, Erik!

I recently found two identical business cards while cleaning up my dresser top’s seemingly perpetual mess. The cards read Golden Senior Softball Club of Sacramento. I remembered picking up one card a year ago and the other about a few months ago. I vaguely recalled being interested in playing softball last year but never got the nerve to even look up the establishment online, and as I type this post, I still haven’t looked up the club online. On the back of the cards, it reads:

Stay Active

Meet new Friends

Have fun playing Senior Softball

Visit our Website for Applications,

Schedules & League History!

Besides the random capitalization that rubs me the wrong way, meeting new “friends” sounds horrifying. Has anyone ever met a new friend before? Usually, the process goes: you meet someone, and over time, you become friends. Anyway, playing softball (even if it is with a bunch of oldsters like me gave me pause. Yet, if there is one team sport I would like to play, it is softball. Of course, I would prefer hardball, but maybe I would regret that preference if I played in a real senior baseball league. But I am talking (typing) out of my ass. So I haven’t tried it. I haven’t even talked to somebody in the club yet.

The following post is not just a reposting of a story I told on this blog back on April 19, 2008, and reposted on October 6, 2017. Since I can’t seem to conjure up any new short fiction and the previous Pilates story is the first post I have written in nine months, I’m posting this story for the third time, but I am adding material to the end that is roughly related. I’m also cleaning up the grammar from the original and second (Geez!) post. Hopefully, I’ll get inspired and start posting more stories soon.


I didn’t remember hitting the triple until Erik, an old college buddy and leader of the slow-pitch softball team, the Dead Seagulls, reminded me in our first communiqué since those days. I hadn’t spoken with any of my old American River College or Sac State buddies for years, but I began searching for old friends about fifteen years ago. For some reason, the details of that one summer I played on the Dead Seagulls have fallen into a black hole in my memory. So when Erik mentioned the triple, it was the key to many wonderful feelings and one bad one.

The team got its name when Erik, his brother Paul, Erik’s high school friend Chuck, and other original members of the newly formed team found a dead seagull on the diamond when the players took the field for their first practice. The dead bird was there every subsequent practice until someone finally removed it. The team didn’t have a name before the seagull incidents, and on the day they registered the team, they couldn’t think of a more appropriate name. (See the image above of a newly minted shirt Erik made for the Dead Seagulls alums. The design came from one of Erik’s high school friends, who drew it during a geometry class one day for $5.)

When I became a Dead Seagull, my father’s business sponsored the team. Usually, the sponsor or sponsors’ names were on the back of the shirts, but as I recall, the shirts were already printed, and my father didn’t have a stencil. My dad didn’t care; he was happy that his sedentary son was moving around, especially playing a sport. Unfortunately, as noted in earlier posts, I have never been good at sports, and my lack of dedication to any competitive game only worsened my athletic abilities.

It seems strange that I remember so little of what was an enjoyable and virtually carefree time in my life. I was in junior college and had developed some good friendships. Establishing, cultivating, and keeping good, close friends have always been problematic. This time was also special because I was playing a “sport” for the first time since I wrapped a 3-iron around a tree on a golf course and walked off, never to play the game again. I placed quotation marks on the word “sport” (there, I did it again) because this kind of softball was more casual than most. For instance, the pitcher was in an offensive position. Each batter would select his favorite teammate to lob pitches, so to speak—whoever knew how to place the ball right where the batter wanted it. I recently read in John Thorn’s Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game that before the 1860s, pitchers did not try to strike out the batters—only to help put the ball in play.

This also meant that the catcher—my position—had one main job, fetching the pitch if the batter missed or took the pitch. Things hadn’t changed much since I had been in Little League—what the right fielder was in Little League, the catcher was in this particular brand of slow-pitch softball. I would lean against the backstop and pick up any balls the batter missed or preferred not to hit. Because of this, there were no strikes, no balls, no stealing bases, and no pitcher-catcher conferences on the mound. Play didn’t start until the batter hit the ball into play. The only times my position became important were when plays came to the plate, but that didn’t happen much. I only remember two times that the ball came to me faster than a croquet ball.

I once ran in front of the plate to hold the runner at third. The throw came hard, and I remember hearing Erik yelling my name—not in a “head’s up” kind of way but more like a mother yelling at her son to “get out of the way of that speeding car.” Everybody knew I was the worst player on the team, and since this was not a very competitive league, my teammates would rather see me unhurt than depending on my ball handling to save a run or two. The ball came in low and fast, then took a high hop, and I caught the ball right in front of my face—the mitt so close to my nose that I could smell the lanolin oil I had just used to break it in. I remember Erik yelling my name again, this time in a deep breath of relief. It made me wonder if Erik and my dad had entered into a secret pact: my dad not letting go of the check and whispering in Erik’s ear, “Protect my boy from anything that might hurt him, like a ball thrown in his general direction.”

Then there was the time I blocked the plate—like a pro catcher used to do. I remember concentrating on the ball slowing coming in from the outfield and seeing what looked like a freight train coming toward me through my lazy eye. Before the ball got to me, the entire diamond turned upside down, and I could see the backstop and the ball flying between my legs. Then I came down—on my back. I wasn’t bowled over, though; the runner slid between my legs, and as his feet pushed my feet off the ground, I did a somersault and fell on my back. The runner I was attempting to block, and the runner behind him scored. I thought it must have looked magnificent and wished someone had filmed it. Most of my teammates acted as if I did a foolish thing; this was casual competition, nothing worth getting injured. In my mind’s eye, Erik covered his face with one eye, peaking out and praying I was okay. I was.

My batting was no more stellar than my fielding. I don’t remember doing anything but grounding out, although I know I hit safely to first occasionally because I remember being embarrassed about how slowly I ran. I was then, and still am now, a plodding runner. I remember running the pads, actually listening to the footsteps of my teammate behind me getting louder and louder. I am not sure, but I think I recall the base runner behind me yelling to “speed up.” It must have been a drag to follow me at bat. If I reached base, the next hitter would be limited to a single or double because I couldn’t run fast enough to give the hitter who followed me the extra bases he usually would have.

These memories came back when Erik reminded me about “The Triple.” He used the definite article as if there were only one ever hit in the game’s history. As if you were to ask Bob Costas or Vin Skully about “The Triple, ” they would say, “Oh, you mean the one Jack Keaton hit in the ’80s that one season when he was on the Dead Seagulls?” In this league, extra-base hits were as ubiquitous as pop-ups and ground balls in the majors. This three-bagger was memorable because I had never hit the ball so far. When I cranked this one, all I remember was that when I made first base, I could see I should take second. When I reached second, everyone was off the bench and advancing me to third; all the while, I continued to hear screaming from the bench. When I landed safely on third base, I looked over at our bench and saw all my teammates up and madly rattling the chain link fence like crazed monkeys, yelling at me as if I had driven in the game-winner in the final game of the World Series.

It was the most significant moment in my life as far as sports go. I never felt so triumphant, never so—at the risk of sounding melodramatic—appreciated. How could I have forgotten this moment? Why did it take Erik over ten years later to jog my memory? This should have been on my memory’s mantlepiece along with (finally) graduating from college, getting married, seeing my youngest born, a few sexual encounters, and other highlights.

Perhaps the answer to those questions is in what happened minutes later. Unfortunately, after scoring and returning to the bench, I also remember the smiles on my teammates’ faces. They looked as if they were more amused than supportive. I sat down on the bench, basking in the afterglow, and then Ethan, who joined the Dead Seagulls with me, made a comment that may have defined all the looks: “Man, you run just like Ron Cey!” The all-star third baseman was known as “The Penguin” because of how he ran. The comment crushed me and might be why I forgot the longest ball I ever hit. All I could think now was that my teammates rattling the cage had been laughing about how funny I looked running with a 2×4 up my ass. I know they were excited for me—we never cheered fellow players as they cheered me, but I couldn’t shake the embarrassment.

I never played a team sport again. No, I wasn’t so profoundly hurt that I could never play again; we went our separate ways: Erik moved to Poland for a year, Ethan continued college in New England, and I advanced to California State University, Sacramento. After that, the closest I came to competitive sports was being Assistant Manager to my kid’s tee-ball team one season in the early 1990s.

University Maryland kegball players take their time before moving on to third.

Around that time, a friend at work invited me to join his “sloshball” team. Sloshball, as he explained, is softball with a keg at second base. Base runners cannot advance past second until they have drunk a red plastic cup of beer. There were certain dispensations to accommodate the slow drinkers: more than one runner can be on second at one time, and they can advance together when the ball is in play, and both runners have finished their drinks. Players in the field can throw out or tag runners together, creating some unique double-play possibilities, assuming the fielders were sober enough to turn them. Even if you homered, the guy who hit the dinger had to drink a cup when rounding second base. Note: I thought my borderline alcie fellow employees invented sloshball, but I ran into a couple of sites while researching that have to do with sloshball or kegball, including some folks at the University of California, Davis, but they only play annually at a college picnic.

Since I am heavily medicated and am not crazy about beer, to begin with, I passed on the offer. Considering my batting history, I don’t think I would have gotten very drunk had I joined. I’m sure the now fabled triple would not have happened. I would have had to settle for a two-bagger, and I am sure I would have booted all over home plate.

The Triple: Forty Years Later

Sore feelings aside, I think I would like to play with the Dead Seagulls again, but they no longer play softball. Instead, the now-greying Dead Seagulls continue to play virtually as the Dead Seagulls Baseball Association (DSBA): a fantasy baseball league run by Erik, his brother Paul, and Chuck now play ball vicariously through MLB players. All the other team owners come from other parts of Erik’s life.

Erik invited me to play a few years back but kept forgetting to sign me up until the 2022 season. I was already a fantasy baseball team owner on an ESPN-run league. In my first year, I did alright. My team, the South Land Park Barking Dogs, ended up somewhere in the middle of the field, but I’m in the cellar of the ESPN league this year.

In my first season as a Dead Seagulls Baseball Association team owner, I am doing about as okay for my first year. Still, it is a far more complex league requiring owners to be more knowledgeable about players than I am or care to be. I can see myself continuing playing in the ESPN league because it is so easy to navigate (not so easy to win), but Erik’s CBS Sports-run league requires expertise in ball players.

As far as the Golden Senior Softball Club of Sacramento goes, I’m going to deem starting now too late. So instead, I will check out the website and investigate how it works, where they play, and maybe even attend a game or two. Then, next spring, I’ll pick up yet another card from my gym’s lobby. Perhaps I’ll sign up, get picked for a team, realize I am now even worse than I was in Little League, on the Dead Seagulls, or the fantasy teams I manage, and who knows, maybe this 65-year-old man will hit another triple!

More Bread for Mopping: Eating with Jimmy

fat kids

“Two fat guys walk into a restaurant…”

I don’t know what the punchline of that joke would be. It’s been so long since I lived the actual setup. The last time I had lunch with my friend Jimmy was over seventeen years ago. I miss our time together, our unhealthy attraction to food, my guilt for pigging out on the stuff and his utter shamelessness for bingeing.

I met James Tatsch at a party of Tower Theatre and Showcase Cinema employees way back in 1980 when I was a new Tower employee. I was my usual wallflower self–not talking to nearly all of the guests since I had just met some of them as fellow floor staffers and the rest being complete strangers to me–some Showcase Cinema floor staff and the remaining friends of Tower/Showcase employees. I would find a corner in this Midtown Sacramento house to inhabit or just walk around aimlessly–rarely stopping at a cluster of chatting attendees. At one point I wandered into a bedroom with a one-sheet of Lina Wertmüller’s 1974 film “Swept Away” on the ceiling. There sitting at a desk playing one of those now considered “old school” wooden labyrinth games was this morbidly obese man–older than anyone else in the party by at least fifteen years. (Yeah, that doesn’t seem much now that I’m 60, but the difference seemed significant at 23.) His isolation, WearGuard clothes, ankle-supporting leather hightop shoes, and his advanced baldness also added to his years, I suppose.

While I was stared at the sexy movie poster, Jimmy said hello. I said hello back and a perfunctory conversation ensued. While we talked–he working the labyrinth game and I staring at Mariangela Melato’s body. He rarely looked up when he spoke that night. He said his name was Wolfgang, a reinvention moniker after Wolfgang von Goethe–a name I would refer to him as until the last ten years of our friendship when I began to call him Jimmy–the name his family called him. I thought Jimmy was more endearing than Wolfgang or James.

He would only make eye contact briefly after he lost a game and just before he fetched the ball from the return and resumed the game. Was that rude? I don’t know. I liked that he was not so intensely engaged in our conversation. It provided an easy way out if it got uncomfortable and anyway, I was too transfixed by Mariangela Melato’s body. Later, I would find Jimmy fascinating, witty, charming, and–ultimately–tragic when others found him either weird, uninteresting or repulsive. Over the next thirty years, I found that most people chose one of the latter qualities rather than agreeing with my assessment of the man. We would become famous friends with many negligible things in common and one big one: we both liked to eat!

This post is about our friendship and mutual love for stuffing our faces. I originally wanted to write a comprehensive history of our friendship. Thanks to my poor memory I settled on the beginning and what I’m afraid is the end of our friendship and one element in between.

I have struggled with my weight since settling down with my wife. That’s not her fault. I have always been a little on the thick side. By the time I was in college–occasionally living (and nearly starving) outside the home–I was probably at my best weight. In fact, when I met Jimmy I might have been near my best weight. Yeah, I’ll blame my weight on him.

A few years into my marriage (in the early 1990s) I had gotten used to home-cooked meals again and was getting far too comfortable watching TV after dinner until bedtime. It was at this time Jimmy would come over about two or three times a month. We would sit and chat and often fetch fast-food dinners for the whole family. Other times he would buy some exotic food that he would share with my wife and I after the kids went down. We would sit at the kitchen table–Jimmy testing the tensile strength of the wooden chair he sat in–and chat and eat into the late night. So it was logical in that environment that I would gain weight.

Perhaps the best example of how the consumption of food was the bond between Jimmy and me was the night we chowed down somewhere in the ballpark of a dozen Jimboys Tacos. My wife had called from work or shopping to ask what I wanted for dinner. I replied, “Just bring home a shitload of Jimboys Tacos. Wolfgang (Jimmy) is here.” She didn’t disappoint. Jimmy and I ate somewhere in the vicinity of a twelve beef tacos along with some taquitos and plenty of Jimboy’s fake guacamole. We also emptied a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke (being on a diet and all).

It’s funny how, at the time, my wife thought that the whole scene was grotesquely humorous–two fat guys going through a sizeable greasy-orange bag of taco and taquitos, our bald foreheads glistening with sweat from the hot sauce we didn’t spare. Those days are long gone. Now, whenever I down a large flauta (basically a giant taquito) and prep myself for Flauta No. 2, she says in, with absolutely no humor in her tone, “You’re not going to eat both of those?” She’s right, of course. I’m a lot fatter and older than I was when I ate all those tacos and I need my wife to remind me of that, but I miss Jimmy and the free-wheeling taco jam; and hey, why did she buy two of these things when she’s eating a taco salad?

Then there were the excursions. About twenty years ago I had to surrender my driver’s license to the DMV after I started experiencing seizures that are usually suppressed by the medications I have been taking since I was twelve. This problem, it appears, has passed and I have my license back, but for nearly ten years I was at the mercy of my family and the horrible Sacramento Regional Transit District to get around. Jimmy–always wanting to be the hero–offered to take me out to lunch every so often and help me run some errands. We would sometimes go shopping at off-beat places: Mexican, Chinese, Vietnamese markets where Jimmy–a student of linguistics–would try his hand at understanding the help that didn’t speak English. I bought stuff that I would have never purchased for my family. I’d show it to the household and Jimmy almost always took it home with him.

We would sometimes go to Morant’s Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen where I would buy him some sausages and buy some landjäger for myself that I could take to work. (The stuff would keep without refrigeration for over a week!) Along with his bouts of Manic Depression, Jimmy suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and an obsession to know virtually everything there is to know German sausages. We got kicked out of Morant’s once because Jimmy asked too many questions and when the butcher at the counter was through answering questions Jimmy dished out some of his choice sarcasm and the butcher told him to take a hike, shooting me a look like I somehow insulted him as well.

Whenever we went to a sitdown restaurant I had the misfortune to have an attractive woman wait on us. Despite his looks, Jimmy was a charmer, but his charm didn’t woo the waitresses. They always said their boyfriends were at the bar or waiting outside in the car or was “a line cook here–right on the other side of those doors”–pointing at the swinging doors as if to say if I scream he will hear me and kick the shit out of you. These waitresses would tell this to Jimmy as he continued asking them questions that got more and more personal. They always kept their cool but I couldn’t help thinking the replies to these queries were thinly disguised “back off, fatso” lines, and that these smoke signals were also intended for me, too, though I usually kept my face buried in the menu.

And if Jimmy was serious about flirting with the help his ordering completely obliterated what remote chance he had with these ladies. He ordered as if he were feeding two people and a small child. Jimmy also asked a lot of questions on various items, keeping the waitresses at our table and away from their other customers. The kicker came when we finally ordered he insisted on keeping the menu–on one occasion having a tug of war over the menu with the waitress. Jimmy won, placing the big laminated thing between his gigantic ass and the chair. (I dare you to try to snatch that menu now, flustered waitress!)

The weird menu-hoarding thing was because he had to “pavement checked” the menu before surrendering it. It was his OCD–he had to thoroughly scan the information and the actual physical menu before he felt secure enough to relinquish it. Also, he always ordered dessert. No matter how embarrassed I was, I also ordered something after our large lunches.

Bread was another thing. Whenever we ate at a restaurant that served a complimentary basket of bread, we would buzz through at least two baskets. Jimmy would stuff the un-eaten slices in his “bagatelle” (a double entendre for the brown paper bag he would carry with him everywhere that contained his glasses, a magnifying glass, tissue paper–trifles). He felt absolutely no shame in requesting additional baskets of complimentary bread. The waitress would come by asking “Is everything alright.” Jimmy would always be polite and say “Oh, yes!” or “It’s all excellent. Thank you.” Unfortunately, he took that time to ask something about the waitress: how long had she been working there, what kind of earrings was she wearing, does that ring signify you are married? As embarrassing as this was, he would always top all of this by waiting until the waitress was about two tables away before yelling, “AND MORE BREAD FOR MOPPING.” I wanted to slink down under the table grabbing my Penne Rustica and the remaining slices of bread on the way down, of course.

I ran into a clip from Louis C.K.’s FX TV show “Louie” and immediately thought of my lunch dates with Jimmy. I’m not sure how the reader feels of C.K. after his gross sexual misconduct. I am sympathetic of his and all other victims of sexual misconduct, but I also am selfish enough to wish the whole thing didn’t happen so he can keep making standup specials, TV shows, and films like the indefinitely shelved I Love You, Daddy. Anyway, below is a clip that is the closest thing I have ever seen on TV to my lunches with Jimmy. Jimmy would be Bobby, Louie’s friend: utterly shameless in his gluttony. I would be Louie: willing to stuff my face with my friend, but self-conscience about it.

For some reason, the lunches with Jimmy stopped. Maybe Jimmy ran out of places where he was welcome. I’m not sure, but around that time I got a scooter and I was pigging out on burgers alone and reviewing them for this blog. One of a few big reasons I do so few Burger Scoot reviews these days is because the empty chairs around me remind me of our Saturday lunches. His visits to my home were also on a less frequent basis.

In 2010, Jimmy overdosed on Lithium–a prescription drug his psychiatrist prescribed for his manic depression–which he had been taking irregularly since before I met him. I dropped in on him at the request of a mutual friend who could not reach him and was worried. I found him in a horrible state. I called 9-1-1 and saw the EMTs haul him off in an ambulance. I visited him in the hospital a couple of times. When he was discharged from the hospital his sister picked him up and delivered him to an assisted living facility in Washington. I called him about a year or so after he moved to his new residence, but now his medications were being managed by professionals and I was no longer talking to my old friend. It was like the meds killed the manic part and left him just depressed. I spoke with him a second time, but there was no change. He didn’t want to talk very long and I suppose that was a good thing: the old Jimmy–the Wolfgang I met at that Midtown house party back in 1980, the guy I ate a shitload of tacos with and got kicked out of Morant’s with–was gone.

As I type this Vivian, my lab mix is eating her dinner behind me. It hasn’t happened yet, but as soon as she wolfs her food down–not too different from the way Jimmy and I would attack our food–she will drink some water. When she is finished lapping up the water she will return to the empty kibble bowl with her wet mouth and lick the bowl clean. Aah, there she goes! Vivian doesn’t need bread, her tongue does all the mopping.

I miss my friend.


After a Sacramento Symphony concert in the 1990s, I believe. Jimmy is center with his Women’s Philharmonic t-shirt, I’m on the right laughing my ass off at something I wish I could remember. Our mutual friend from the D.C. area, Carl “Mad Dog” Hattery, is on the left.

The Gang of Three’s night out

Gorillas up - 3D renderThe first Wednesday of each month I go out with a gang of guys for dinner, a film, and I like to think fellowship. It’s called Don Pedro, for some reason. It’s a lovely time especially for someone like me who rarely gets out. This month’s event got moved back a week and then–in the afternoon of the day we were going to do this–it was canceled.

I sent an email to everyone in the group saying that I was still going to go out–Don Pedro or no Don Pedro. You see, I had ridden my Vespa to work for this purpose. The whole scooter thing is a much longer story. In a nutshell: I tend to bail out of my commitment to riding my bike to work every day–finding an excuse for not putting in the exercise and recently recommitted myself to never ride my scooter (or take the bus) to work unless I absolutely had to.

Anyway, for some stupid reason, I pointed that out in my email to the group in general and the organizer, Chip, specifically. It was one of those moments I am infamous for–speaking (writing) when silence would be a much better option. Also, this email might have come across a little whiny because Chip, the guy who does most of the footwork for the group (picking out the restaurant and movie options, and counting the votes, etc.) might have felt that he had let me and maybe others down. Looking back at my email it did come across kind of bitchy, but that may only be the way I re-read my email vis a vie Chip’s apologetic reply.

So I saw Kong: Skull Island and since it was only me and there is no need to look for group seating at a restaurant, I chose the neighboring In-N-Out Burger. I thought about milking the whole “whiny” thing by asking people in the restaurant and later in the theater to take pix of me alone, weeping in my fries and then in my popcorn, but didn’t want to go through the hassle. As for eating out alone and watching films alone, it’s entirely possible that I have seen more movies in theaters alone than I have with friends/family. Also, I have eaten many meals alone in restaurants since I could drive and had disposable income. So while the absence of the guys may be a disappointment, it is by no means depressing I’m used to doing this kind of stuff in my gang of one.

This obviously isn’t one of those Burger Scoot reviews I used to do at this blog, but I will say the Double-Double with cheese and onions was good, though as corporate/franchise burgers go, I prefer Smashburger and Krush Bdouble-doubleurger’s offerings. (I still haven’t gone to The Habit Burger Grill. I’m now making that a priority!) The fries were not as good as I remember them. While they were definitely fresh–I could see the spuds being prepped using that can-crusher style potato cutter–they are a little soggy. The milkshake is good as In-N-Out Burger’s usually are. To be honest, I rarely go to In-N-Out Burger–it’s too far away. Almost every time I have been to one it has been while on the road. Coincidentally though, the first time I visited this particular store I ran into Chip–the unofficial Don Pedro Chairman of the Board–and his family.

Kong: Skull Island was the title suggested by Chip. Considering this movie’s viewing options here in Sacramento were dwindling fast I chose that one, despite it was a pain to get to with my scooter. (I ride surface roads only.) This iteration is a blast and is, without a doubt, the best remake of King Kong. I won’t go any further about the film.

Much like Kong, I have always been a loner and am always a little surprised when someone finds this out and says something like, “Really? I don’t think I could do that.” If it’s a woman, I completely understand, but men often have the same reaction, but then I have been a loner for so long that even after 25-plus years of marriage I can still do this when I can get away with it. I missed the guys, but aside from regretting the Double-Double, (a single and the shake with no fries would have been enough), I enjoyed the evening with my own gang of three: me, myself, and I.