The Wolfpack Files

My Life in My Words

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Ah, summer. Baseball, the ice cream man, getting beaten up at camp. Such memories! I was talking to a nephew of mine the other day, and he mentioned that he was going to basketball camp for the first time this summer. It reminded me of my camp days. I never went to an overnight camp, but I went to a lot of day camps. They were fun, for the most part. I don't have a ton of memories, and the ones I do have aren't good ones, but considering I went for most of my childhood, I'd have to guess the rest of the time I had fun. Once I was hit in the face with a golf club. We were playing mini-golf and I was standing behind someone who was about to putt. He, for some reason, decided to go into a full, Tiger Woods-esque back swing and smacked me in the face. The next thing I remember, I'm in the nurse's office, eating a grape popsicle. Surprisingly, my love of mini-golf only grew after that.

I went to a sports camp once, where every 'period' you got to pick between two different sports to play. That was fun, and I even got to play field hockey. I never got the hang of only being able to hit the ball with one side of the stick, but it was an experience. While there, we would sometimes have sports celebrities stop by. I remember Daryl Dawkins came by once. Dawkins was famous for having destroyed a basket during a game with a thunderous dunk. When he got there, we were all sitting around the court and he put on a dunking display. By the end everyone was chanting for him to 'break the basket!' You could tell he really wanted to, and he even asked the director if it was OK for him to do it, but the director immediately said no. Another time Jim Rice came by. He was late and only stayed for 15 minutes before he had to fly off to a game, but man, Jim Rice! He was my favorite Red Sox player at the time. A few years earlier I had stood in line for hours trying to get his autograph, but I never made it to the front of the line.

Then there was the summer I was beaten up pretty much every day. It must have been the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Now, for those of you that know me, I'm not a small person. I may not be the most intimidating man ever to walk the planet, but for the most part, people leave me alone. When I was in college, I used to have friends ask me to go into the city with them because people wouldn't come up to us for money or things like that. Even now people stay out of my way. But back then, well, apparently I didn't put the fear of anything into anyone. There were two guys, Mike and Hub. I'm not sure what Hub stood for, or if his name was just Hub. But every day, for reasons I can not remember, they would tease me or punch me in the stomach. Suffice to say, it wasn't the nicest way to spend a summer. I had friends at camp otherwise, so it wasn't a complete waste of a summer, but it wasn't the best year I had. Needless to say, I was happy when camp was over.

I went to a private school for junior high and high school. At the time, 7th and 8th grade was held on the lower campus, and 9th thru 12th grades were held on the upper campus. Every October we had our version of homecoming, which was held on the upper campus. So October rolls around and me and my friends are on the upper campus celebrating when, from around the other end of the soccer field, who do I see walking towards me? Yes, that's right, Mike and Hub. I could not believe my eyes. Did they actually go to my school?? I suddenly had visions of getting my ass kicked every day in high school. They walked over to me and sat down in the grass next to me and started talking to me like we were best friends! I could not figure out what the hell was going on. It turns out Mike has just started high school at my school (which is why I hadn't seen him before) and Hub was just visiting. They both apologized for their behavior during the summer and laughed it off as 'one of those things.' I wasn't convinced, and at least I didn't have to run into them the rest of the year.

The next school year started and Mike and I were on the same campus. As it turned out, he was a nice guy. During the three years we were in school together, we ended up being friends and playing tennis together. Until an incident towards the end of my junior year. Mike and I, along with most of our friends, all hung out backstage (yes, I was a drama nerd/geek/whatever) and we were roughhousing, as boys will do. I had Mike in a front face lock and he started to shove me back into the wall. Well, when you have someone in a front face lock and you're being shoved back into a wall, your back isn't the first thing that'll hit the wall. The person's head you're holding will. So Mike shoved me back and smacked his head against the wall. I guess he didn't like that feeling and blamed me for it, because when he regained his senses, he shoved me and wanted to fight me. Now, this all took place before school had started for the day. And that morning we had an assembly in the auditorium, so people were walking by us on the way there. And I'll be damned if half of them didn't walk by me and whisper 'kick his ass!' I'm not sure I could have kicked Mike's ass, but I would have given him a good run for his money. Throw in the fact that back in 8th grade I had knocked a friend of mine cold with one punch, and I wasn't looking forward to a fight. Contrary to what you might think, knocking someone to the ground isn't all that exciting. So we stood there, staring at each other for a couple of minutes, before I walked away.

We didn't speak much after that. But I kind of like to think that head vs. wall smackdown was a little bit of payback for what he had done to me years earlier. I mean, I knew what was going to happen when he shoved me backwards and I didn't let go. Hmm... :-)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Regrets, I've had a few...

Back in college I had a friend named Rachel. She and I were extremely close. We talked all the time, hung out all the time, did a lot together. I can honestly say at the time she was the closest friend I had. Well, one day she was waiting for me outside of class so we could walk back to the dorms together. My class let out and there were a lot of people filing out into a small hallway. So I, with my head, nodded towards the stairs to tell Rachel that I'd meet her downstairs. Now, maybe I didn't nod hard enough or maybe she didn't see me do anything, or maybe I should have actually said something. But I got to the bottom of the stairs and waited... and waited... and finally she came downstairs and walked right by me and out the door.

I admit I can be stubborn and pigheaded at times, but back then it was almost my calling. I felt like I had been snubbed. Rachel was pretty stubborn too and so we didn't talk. For months. We hung out in the same crowd, but ignored each other, since we both felt the other had been treated badly. Eventually we did talk and apologized to each other, but the damage had already been done. That time apart separated us to a point where our close friendship was reduced to being acquaintances. It's one of the biggest regrets of my life not talking to her immediately afterwards, just to find out what happened. At the time she said she felt I hadn't treated her like a friend. I thought she was full of it, but as my life went on, I started to understand what she meant. Yes, there's no question we both overreacted to the situation, but I blame myself for feeling that my pride was more important than my friend.

Since then I've developed this (sometimes annoying) habit of saying what's on my mind, whenever it pops up. Sometimes it can be funny (as when I used to interrogate random women in college - OK, you had to be there) and sometimes it can backfire, since it's not always the best idea to just blurt out what's on your mind. But if, with Rachel, I had gone immediately to her room and even just yelled at her (we yelled at each other a lot), we could have worked it out and maybe today still been close friends. Instead I sat back and expected her to do something, while she expected me to say something. And then neither of us did anything and the rest is history.

Over the years I've come to the realization that I am not a one man band. In order to accomplish things in my life, I need my friends and my family and I try and be a good person and help out whenever asked and be there for the people who need me. And at times I'll go overboard in wanting to help or I'll say things I shouldn't, but I also think that's better than hiding away and not being honest. I don't want to live a life of regret, and I never want to lose another Rachel.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I am a Marxist

A long time ago in a land far, far away, Richard Marx was a pretty popular artist. I was a huge fan, even going so far as to use a quote of his in my yearbook (I believe it was 'Lord I know I'm bound for Heaven, 'cause I've done my time in Hell.' Apparently at the time I thought high school was Hell. Then again, who doesn't?) So when Marx had a tour coming near Connecticut, I was all over it. My friend Mike and I were gonna go see him perform at an outdoor venue in Mansfield, MA on Wednesday, August 24th. We decided that the night before we'd go to my parents' beach house since getting to Mansfield was easier from there than from where we lived. It was gonna be great!

Now, I've seen a lot of artists in concert that many people would consider to be 'uncool'. My first concert was of course, Barry Manilow. I've also seen Lionel Richie during his Dancing on a Ceiling tour, the Beach Boys with Chicago, Huey Lewis and the News (with my mother!) and not once, but twice, I saw Michael Bolton. The first time was again with my friend Mike. Actually for that concert, Mike had gotten the tickets and left them in his house. When we went to get the tickets we realized Mike had locked himself out of the house and neither his parents nor his brother were home. So Mike had to climb to the second story of the house and break in through an upstairs window. But we got to see Michael Bolton! The second time was with a girl, so you know how that goes. We saw him at another outdoor venue and it was drizzling, but hell, I was there with a girl! The best (or worst) part was during the intermission, she got up to go to the bathroom. She was gone for 30-40 minutes and I just assumed that there was a long line for the facilities. While she was gone the concert restarted and I was more afraid that she was going to miss something than being afraid she was lost. She shows up again 3 or 4 songs into the second half and as it turns out, she was cutting back up through the covered seats to get to our place in the lawn when the concert restarted. And as luck would have it, Mr. Bolton started the second half of the show in the audience, about 5 feet from her. So of course she stood there, nice and dry and watched him from close up, while I sat in the rain, all alone, against a fence. Needless to say at the time I was rather jealous, although looking back on it, eh, not so much.

But back to Richard Marx. At that point in my life this was the one concert I really wanted to go to. I was all excited and couldn't wait. We get to the beach house on Tuesday night, hang out and watch TV, basking in the fact that we were high school students without parents and siblings to deal with. Just two single guys in their own beach house, drinking soda and having a wild old time. The next day we spend it again hanging out, playing mini-golf, doing whatever. Finally it gets to be the late afternoon and we walk out to the car to head to the concert. It was at this point the story takes a sad turn. Or a stupid one. See, today I always like to know what time it is and what the date is. As I sit here, I've got the clock on my computer, one on the wall in front of me, a watch, my cell phone, and about 3 clocks behind me. I've also got a one-a-day calendar, one on the wall and my watch shows the date, not to mention the calendar I use online. But back then, I wasn't that concerned with time and date. So once I got the tickets, in my mind, I was always thinking the concert was on Wednesday, August 25th. Once I had the date in my head, I let it go and just went with Wednesday, so to me, the concert was always on a Wednesday. As we got into the car I finally pulled out the tickets and took a look at them. I think I may have uttered a small 'oh no' before turning to Mike and asking him what day it was. He replied 'the 26th' at which point I groan and hand him the tickets, which were for TUESDAY, August 25th!

I am proud to say that since then I haven't made such a boneheaded mistake. That may also be why I constantly need to know what the date is and what time it is. But back then... well, Mike saw the date on the tickets, let out a scream, ripped the tickets in half, got out of the car and did one of those things you only see in the movies where he yelled and screamed and danced around the parking lot like a lunatic. I just sat in the car, with the ripped tickets in my hand, and stared out the front window. After a few minutes Mike calmed down and got back in the car and together we stared out the front window. Eventually we drove to KFC, got a big bucket of chicken, drove back to the beach house and ate ourselves sick. Mike was nice about it. He never blamed me or yelled at me. I think he could tell how disappointed I was. And I did feel horrible and really rather stupid. I kept the tickets. I taped them together and taped them to my desk. I still have them, buried somewhere in the piles in my room back home.

The saddest part of the story? To this day, I have never seen Richard Marx in concert. Ray Charles? Yup. Billy Joel? Definitely. Kenny G with Peabo Bryson? Sure... but not Richard Marx.

View the tickets

Sunday, June 04, 2006

First Love

I'm at that age where most of my friends are married or at least on the road to marriage. I of course took a wrong exit somewhere and am frantically looking for the on-ramp back to the right highway. But it got me to thinking of my first love. Her name was/is Corey (I'll leave her last name off so no one goes ahead and Googles her, and on the off chance she reads this, although she does know.) I think it began back in 4th grade. Corey lived somewhat down the street from me. I say somewhat because the street she lived on was actually a dead end road, but if you cut through the woods behind the dead end, you would end up on my street. By coincidence, the other end of her street was across the way from the path that lead to school, so years of kids walking through the woods had created a small path. So on random mornings I'd walk (in a group of course) to school with her, or back home from school. Did I ever tell her back then that I liked her? Of course not.

I was never in the 'popular' group, and that's something that went with me throughout my schooling. I was always in between; I hung out with a lower class of person, but I was on friendly terms with the cool kids, so I got a pass. I don't recall ever being tormented that badly growing up (except for one year at summer camp, but that's a whole other story). Corey was one of the cool kids, so she was 'dating' another one of the cool kids. To this day I'm not sure what 'dating' entails at that age, I just know I wasn't part of it. Corey wasn't the hottest girl in school, but she was very pretty, had a lot of freckles, and was left handed. These are the random things I remember about elementary school. Anyway, I think the reason I fell for Corey was because she was nice. Even back then the girls that everyone considered to be 'hot' were stuck up about it. I've never liked that in a person and today I still go for the pretty and nice girl.

I remember this one time my friend Alex was having a birthday party at his house. Alex was the first person I knew with divorced parents, and they let him get away with a lot. Well this party was the first one that included dancing. Not only dancing, but Alex decided it would be fun to have all the girls put their name into a hat, and have the guys pick out one of the names, and that was your partner. I was terrified! Not only would I have to dance, I'd have to dance with a girl! I reached my hand into the hat and as luck would have it, I picked out Corey's name. I was actually happy because as I said, Corey was nice and I knew I'd have a good time dancing with her (relative speaking of course). But something happened - someone complained or a name was missing - and we had to start all over. I ended up picking another girl's name from the hat. I barely knew this girl, except for the fact that she was taller than me and that intimidated me (another thing that has carried over to my current life. I'm suddenly starting to realize my life was formed in elementary school. Odd.) I was afraid I was going to be stuck with this new girl, when, thankfully, there was another re-do of the hat. This time though, the girls picked the guys names. And as I was standing off to the side, Corey comes up to me with my name written on a piece of paper.

I still don't like dancing, but back then it was all foreign to me. The music started and it was like a serving line - two long lines of people facing each other. I couldn't bring myself to get in the line opposite Corey, even though everyone else was dancing. I vividly remember violently throwing down my Red Sox baseball cap on to the ground, sucking in my nerves, and dancing. I looked down the line and saw some of the guy/girl combos actually touching each other while dancing! Of course these days that might be something bad, back then it was just hands clasped from a distance of a few feet. I remember thinking, am I gonna have to do that with Corey?? I never did, but she did wear my baseball cap. It ended up being a pretty nice time.

After 6th grade, I got shipped off to a private school, while all my other friends were off to public. I never saw Corey after that... until... flash forward many, many years and I'm back in Connecticut, working at a hospital. One of my jobs was to look at competing hospital web sites. As I'm looking at our main competitor's web site (the only other major hospital in the city) I happen upon a job listing and at the bottom it says 'Contact Corey *** for more information.' I was floored. My first thought was, hey, she's not married! So I quickly send off an email asking if this in fact was the same Corey from elementary school and if she remembered me. She wrote back shortly thereafter, just as shocked as I was, saying of course she remembered me. We traded emails back and forth a few times that day.

Now for those of you that know me, you know that I live with my head in the clouds. I firmly believe my life is a movie and therefore I will have some kind of fairy tale romance. So when I see that the first girl I ever had a crush on still lived in my hometown and happened to work at a hospital, I thought this was perfect. Think of the stories I could tell the grandkids. Your grandmother and I knew each other when we were young, didn't see each other for years and years, but fate brought us together. It was almost perfect. So I asked Corey if she wanted to get together for a drink the next night. She replied with 'I'd love to but I'm looking at houses with my boyfriend, maybe another night?' Ahh... I should have known better! So we never did get together for that drink. Fast forward a few more years and during that time she and I keep in touch. I know when she got married, I know when she got pregnant, hell, I even got pictures when the kid was born.

Then one night last summer I'm back home with my family, including my relatives from India who were in town for my sister's wedding. We're getting ice cream at a place called Maggie Moo's and sitting off to the side is none other than Corey. She looked almost exactly as I remembered her, except for the 2-week old baby in her lap. It was honestly like looking into the past when I saw her. I froze and wasn't sure what to do. After almost finishing my ice cream I finally got up the nerve and went over and said hi. She's still the friendly girl I used to know. Even while sitting with her husband and 2-week old child, she was talking about how the next time I came home I should call her so we could go out and catch up. I re-introduced her to my family and everyone awwed over her kid and then we left. Haven't talked to her since. I suppose it's time for me to send an email.

I probably wasn't all that close to my fairy tale romance, but I'd like to think I was. I guess I still have time for all that to come true. Hmm... The second girl I ever had a crush on was in junior high. Her name is Carrie. I wonder what she's up to these days :-)