Saturday, February 16, 2008

Another Saturday Night

Have you ever heard that pop song from the 50's or early 60's?

Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody
I got some money 'cuz I just got paid
Now how I wish I had someone to talk to
I'm in an awful way

I was singing that after I got home from my weekly Saturday evening workout at the Y. I wasn't feeling as lonely as I used to, but I still had to wonder when I'm gonna get out of this solitary rut. Rather than pick up dinner at Lund's or Kowalski's, I went to the Mysore Cafe (across the street from the Y). The only other patrons there were four Indian guys. It was quite subdued. At least I didn't have to feel too self-conscious about dining alone. The only menu option was the buffet. It was decent, but I wouldn't mourn the loss of the Mysore. It looks to be on its last legs anyhow. (I wonder if watching a muted Red River is affecting my style.)

Two girls (20something, I guess) came in after the men had departed and, for some reason, the host seated them at the same table where the guys had been, next to mine. They were rather attractive, but I only glanced over at them a few times. I wasn't in the mood to make conversation. Even on my most extraverted days, such a move would be exceedingly rare. Has my shyness kept me alone? I've always been exasperated by the apparent shyness of women. Perhaps my joyless visage has discouraged potential suitors. (Hee, hee. "Suitors." Maybe they should be called "suitresses.")

Either way, it's academic. At the end of the night, I'm still alone. I'm much happier now than I was just a year-and-a-half ago, but I don't think I'll be truly happy til I have a girl to call my own. Sappy, but true.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Glorious Wrench

(Non-sports fans will have to forgive me this entry. My deeply-rooted love of athletic contests demands that I expound on Super Bowl XLII, the greatest Super Bowl of all time, in my humble opinion.)

Over 3 quarters of a defensive struggle, the tension had been building for an historic climax. The Giants continually stymied the Patriots' already legendary offense. New York's pass rush put Tom Brady on his back repeatedly while the secondary locked down Randy Moss and held the other receivers to short gains. Except for the game's opening drive, a 9-minute marathon that ended with a field goal, the Giants had been kept off the scoreboard by New England's time-tested bend-but-don't-break defense.

Heading into the 4th quarter, the Patriots held a 7-3 lead, but I suspect few thought that score would stand. The G-men broke through first with an efficient drive that culminated in a short precision strike from Eli Manning to David Tyree, the receiver's first touchdown of the season. With less than 7 minutes to go, the Patriots suddenly reassumed the ruthlessly efficiency they'd displayed throughout their perfect season. Brady picked apart the Giants' defense and methodically drove his team to the go-ahead touchdown. The score was anticlimactic, a piece-of-cake toss to Moss after the cornerback lost his balance while backpedaling into the end zone. Since I was rooting for New York, that play filled me with despair, but I also thought it was a shitty way to lose a Super Bowl, with the defender falling down.

What happened next is the kind of drive of which legends are made. Surely, long after our bodies and blogs have returned to the dust whence they came, people will still be telling this story to their children around post-apocalyptic bonfires. The winning drive was a stupefying string of missed connections and miracles. Only a sequence of events this unlikely could've undone the heretofore-perfect Patriots.

There were almost 3 minutes left, so the Giants still had plenty of time. Down 14-10, it was end zone or bust. They were soon faced with a 4th-and-1 in their own territory. The play-by-play man (Joe Buck) suggested they might punt and use their 3 timeouts to keep the Pats from running out the clock. I thought that was insane and was relieved when the G-men went for it and (barely) got it. The next turning point was a long 3rd down. Eli anxiously stood his ground in the pocket, unable to find a receiver. The d-line eventually converged on him, with at least 2 Pats getting a hold of his jersey. In a maneuver that can only be called Tarkentonian, Eli scrambled out of the scrum, reared back and lobbed an (ill-advised) Hail Mary down the middle of the field. Tyree leapt for the ball simultaneously with New England safety Rodney Harrison. Clearly, the New York receiver had said his prayers the night before, because the catch he made was at least as blessed as the Immaculate Reception of football yore. He somehow managed to trap the ball against his helmet and, as he came down, held onto it despite Harrison's attempt to rip it away.

This was the greatest play in Super Bowl history, but it still left the Giants thirty-odd yards short of their goal. They narrowly converted a 3rd down thanks to a heads-up catch and run along the sideline by the rookie Steve Smith. With the ball inside the 15, New England brought a blitz, leaving Plaxico Burress in single coverage. Plax faked an inside route and darted past the fooled defender to the front corner of the end zone. Eli lofted the ball over the helpless Patriot and, adjusting slightly, Burress caught it and kneeled into the end zone as the surprisingly numerous Giants fans erupted.

I too erupted in my parents' den, shocked and delirious that the script had been flipped so unbelievably. 35 seconds remained for the Patriots to keep the dream alive, but it died when Brady's 4th-down bomb to Moss bounced harmlessly off the hands of one of the Giants' defensive backs. There was still 1 second left, although apparently the Patriots head coach, the esteemed and enigmatic Bill Belichick, thought the game was over as he shook the hand of Tom Coughlin (New York's coach) and left the field. Or he was too crushed by the defeat to stick around for the Giants' final snap and kneel-down. This incident can only add to his mystique.

What made this experience so captivating for me was the way the Giants had thrown a glorious wrench in the gears of the Patriots' storybook season. Just when it looked like Tom Brady had manufactured the perfect ending to an unblemished year with that methodical march down the field to take the lead, Eli Manning engineers an implausible comeback with a lot of help from David Tyree and the Almighty. It wasn't so much David vs. Goliath as it was the General Lee vs. KITT.

Too bad my dad was rooting for the Patriots. He didn't seem too disappointed though.

Monday, February 04, 2008

DWV: Driving While Vomiting

During the 2 years I lived in Chicago, I had many temp jobs. The longest-lasting of these (3 months) was a data entry gig in the burbs, which required me to commute in my parents' 1992 Buick LeSabre. One morning toward the end of my tenure (early December 2001), I woke up somewhat nauseous, strange for me but not a red flag at that point. I still ate my usual microwaved oatmeal breakfast. That week I experimented by sprinkling craisins into the mix. They didn't help the taste much.

I trudged out of my dreary garden apartment to my parents' car, usually parked less than 3 blocks away. (Chicago parking, huh? Whatta ya gonna do? At least I never got ticketed for lacking the supposedly obligatory city parking sticker.) As I drove through the neighborhoods and corporate campuses of Morton Grove and Glenview, my nausea increased, so I stopped at a drug store and picked up some Pepto-Bismol chewable pills. I popped a few of those and made it to work an hour late, per usual. (Our supervision was extremely lax.)

Now, though, my stomach was on the verge of rebellion. One of my fellow temps, a married woman in her 30's (?), suggested herbal tea. I made a cup and took some sips, but the tide of sickness could not be held back any longer. I tracked down our supervisor (no mean feat) and told her I was ill and homeward bound. "Go," she insisted. "See ya later." It sounded like she was afraid I was gonna puke on her shoes right then and there. Later I learned that the stomach flu had been going around the office.

I was tempted to go straight to the restroom, but, as much as I hate throwing up, I hate the embarrassment of doing so at work even more. So I began the drive home. But I didn't make it. While cruising down an unusually serene freeway, the alarm went off and I knew I had to find a restroom. On the exit ramp is when it began. I just had to point my mouth toward the passenger side and hope that I would miss the dashboard. A fountain of vomitus gushed onto the floor. I was able to take a few breaths and keep the car on the road before the next deluge. A few passing drivers seemed to be aware of a problem. Their confused stares conveyed a certain disgust, but no real concern as far as I could tell. Maybe I'd just been living in Chicago too long to expect total strangers to show any kind of sympathy for me. I turned into a mall parking lot, unleashing another torrent before I was finally able to bring the car (and my stomach) to a state of rest.

There were no more outbursts the rest of the way, thankfully. I pulled into the alley behind my apt. building and somehow cleaned up the mess. (The only part of the cleaning process I remember is the last step: Febreze, Febreze, Febreze.) Due to the craisins, the light blue upholstery of the passenger-side floor and the space between the driver and passenger seats retained a magenta-spotted scheme thereafter. (I'm glad I was able to sanitize that image for you. I was afraid it might get too graphic.)

That evening I was enveloped in a waking fever dream as I tried (and failed) to watch The Sound of Music on TV. (Didn't they used to show that at Easter?) The flu subsided considerably the next day (which was, mercifully, a Saturday). But, when my college friend Courtney called, I still wasn't quite up to hanging out at her new pad. What makes it really sad is that was the last time I spoke with her. In my last 7 months in the Windy City, I left her several messages but never heard back. That had a lot to do with my departure from Chi-town.

Hm. That's a pretty depressing way to end what was supposed to be a whimsical anecdote. I'll have to work on that.