Monday, December 12, 2016

The Specials - "Ghost Town" (1981)

Franklin, VA, on a Saturday afternoon would qualify as one.

Carl Lewis - "Break It Up" (1987)

I wonder if his one-time rival Ben Johnson cut a reggae record...

Stupid Bet

On March 21, 2016, Suffolk Public Library sponsored a trivia competition at Derl'z Restaurant & Pub. Our starting squad, Paul D. Camp (Community College) Dropouts, consisted of Hoyt, Beverley, David and myself. Hoyt and I had previously been teammates on TCC (Tidewater Community College) Dropouts during Applebee's-hosted Q & A contests held throughout the prior two years. Powered by multiple platters of half-priced appetizers, our side furnished full-fledged answers and captured four redeemable $25 gift cards. Enjoying a pre-game cheeseburger and fries at Derl'z, I was confident of our chances to triumph once again. In spite of a point system which required more than one explanation to fully comprehend, we quickly adjusted and skillfully placed no lower than second after each of the six frames. Then came the "Final Jeopardy" wager. I believe the category involved naming ten presidential candidates from the past 40 years who had failed to win seats in the big chair. Because the bet was an all-or-nothing proposition, the omissions cost us silver medals that were practically around our upturned necks. Disappointingly, I explained a strategy we'd neglected to undertake. If the risk had been for zero, our sixth-round total would've sewn up second prize. The difference in the amount of "Derl'z Dollars" between silver and bronze was significant enough to shed a tear in the mug of beer. Grudgingly accepting our spot on the podium, we learned a valuable lesson and resolved to alter the attack in hopes of not repeating history.

If there were ever a night for Paul D. Camp Dropouts to tear open Reese's Pieces packets of redemption, an "80s Reload" theme on July 18, 2016, seemed like the sweet actualization of a "Weird Science" hypothesis. Hosted by The Baron's Pub and again backed by Suffolk Public Library, the Reagan/Bush-era topics would tilt heavily toward the "right" platforms of gaming consoles, athletic endeavors and eccentric entertainers. As children of the ColecoVision who were fascinated by a near-exact translation of Donkey Kong, awed by Walter Payton's eventual shuffle to a Super Bowl ring and amused at Rockwell's phony British accent, Hoyt and I would be main handlers of the pop culture-laced pigskin. Two hours before kickoff, a serious injury report was sent via modern telegram. Our dependable running back would be sidelined by an unexpected workload. This gave me a small window to find a replacement for the deeply apologetic Hoyt on the waiver wire. Desperation forced negotiations with a millennial employee of Starbucks and a baby boomer funeral director. When contract details stalled during the 11th hour, I had to assume full captaincy and break the news to Beverley and Dave. The two 1960s graduates, while not necessarily lead foots, would not be scoring many touchdowns with post-AFL rules in place. A Chuck E. Cheese's ceremonial token flip turned up rat tails and commenced game play.

First music video aired on MTV? Rap song by the Chicago Bears? LL Cool J, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy's record label? Arcade game inspired by M.C. Escher? Those were the soft triggers from emcee Angela Martin in the A-block. Most of the nine teams absorbed Nerf bullets and prepped themselves for harder shots. First guard in 23 years to be named NBA MVP in 1987? Electronic board game targeted to teenage girls that included paper money, credit cards and an ATM? Hank Williams, Jr. anthem which pined, "Nobody wants to get drunk and get loud/Everybody just wants to go home"? We sustained direct hits to our score sheet with erroneous replies. Board game that promised: "You do not have to be Rembrandt ... stick figures and squiggly lines will do just fine"? Beverley drew a lovely check mark with her submission. What nation boycotted the 1980 Winter Olympics after they were told to change its flag and anthem to accommodate China? David exuberantly torched the cauldron and maintained our lead. SEC running back who was MVP of the 1983 Sugar Bowl, 1984 Liberty Bowl and 1986 Cotton Bowl? British band who sang "Ghost Town" and appeared on the soundtrack of 1984's "Sixteen Candles"? Gunther knew the footballer and thought he was special by being the only contestant to blow out the fiery cake in one puff. Going into the betting phase, Paul D. Camp Dropouts and Thundercats Are Go! stood apart from the other seven rosters. Would our minimal edge in regulation be enough to bite into a Baron Burger-shaped award?

With the song "Break It Up" in 1987, what Olympic track star leaped into the world of music videos wearing only a very tight spandex workout suit? Hint: In the 1990s, he butchered "The Star-Spangled Banner" at an NBA game. I'll never forget Charley Steiner's fit of uncontrollable laughter when reacting to the interpretation on ESPN. ("Written by Francis Scott Off-Key," indeed!) Both major contenders passed their batons to Angela and awaited the final tallies. Because of an inexplicable blunder where I risked only 18 or so chips, we pulled up lame just before being the first team to break the tape. Thundercats Are Go! doubled their dowry and captured the championship in come-from-behind fashion. "YOU SHOULD HAVE BET IT ALL!" Angela bellowed at me. I'm almost certain Hoyt would've joined her in the coarse chorus. This choke job gripped far tighter than the earlier mishap at Derl'z. I should've never assumed that our primary challenger's sports knowledge wasn't up to snuff. The John McEnroe in me wanted to rip our $10 runner-up certificate in 10,000 pieces and scatter the shavings across Howard Mast Tennis Center's weather-beaten courts. However, a Stefan Edberg-esque transformation took hold and I calmly exchanged warm thoughts with organizers and opponents alike. Carelessness aside, the "80s Reload" was yet another tremendous happening from the Suffolk Public Library's out-and-about itinerary.

Beverley and I finished in fifth-place at the Pub Trivia Night's Horror Edition on October 24, 2016. The Droogs dominated the proceedings and collected $25 from Derl'z. After the slaughter, Brandon and Henry offered us their meal ticket. Were we stupid enough to kindly decline the undeserved prize? Don't bet on it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jake Trout And The Flounders - "I'm On 18" (1998)

Where in the world is Peter Jacobsen?

John Daly - "I Hit It Hard" (2010)

The ball or the bottle?

Reading The Greens

Photo by Charles PTown
After many unsuccessful attempts at breaking the under-30 barrier, I finally posted a magic number at the Putt-Putt Golf & Games location adjacent to Military Circle Mall in Norfolk. The 7-under-par round of 29 was achieved on a moistened track caused by the previous night's steady rainfall. Leafy debris and strong winds measuring 25-30 mph on the Don Slater Scale also contributed to the difficulty. Regaining composure, I registered only two bogeys in follow-up scores of 34 and 33. The 54-hole total of 96 (12-under par) also set a career mark on that historic afternoon in early 2000.

Six weeks later, I bettered the initial record by one stroke on the same course facing Virginia Beach Blvd. The 28 was made possible with a lucky bank off the back rail that cupped for an 18th-hole ace. I exchanged numerous high-fives with the family of five who had kindly let me play ahead of them. Never again would I match these accomplishments, for the Putt-Putt franchise decided to abandon its three Tidewater Virginia spots without so much as a thunderstorm warning from its famed Buster Ball mascot. Since I only adhered to the standards set by the Professional Putters of America (PPA) on official layouts, my miniature golf era came to an abrupt end. No more conversations with fellow enthusiast Keith while he refreshed his Thermos with vodka and Diet Dr. Pepper. No more dreams of moving into a house directly across the street from Aragona Village's convenient setup. No more losing ten-shot leads via one-hole playoffs in tourneys. No more challenging employees to try their hands at impossible-to-ace maze holes within striking distance from the VB Oceanfront. No more penciling the alter-ego John Daly, Jr. on countless scorecards. Like a dusty relic in a forgotten museum, my once-trusty putter sat untouched in a dark closet corner for nearly fifteen years.

While checking out yet another 30-count CD stack from Chesapeake Central Library's phenomenal music inventory, I took note of a curious flyer for the Chesapeake Masters event that would be held on said premises come March 12, 2016. Quoting the leaflet: "A challenging 18-hole indoor golf tournament benefiting the Smart Start Chesapeake Early Literacy Project ... which funds 2,500 literacy programs for 50,000 kids in Chesapeake." Rather than participating in the main fundraiser replete with an impressive cast of Chesapeake-linked celebrities, I opted for an earlier open-play exhibition amongst unknown duffers accompanied by their guardian caddies. Despite terminal delays brought upon by dozens of dipsticks lacking proper etiquette and forbidding smaller groups to skip ahead in line, I managed to squeeze four competitive rounds and one practice session in the allotted frame. Did I retain enough course knowledge from my stint at the Military Circle complex to make a serious run at a green book jacket and raise my arms in a 21-putt salute? Was my bad judgment and worse behavior more embarrassing than John Daly's freakish trousers? Did I go AWOL in Aragona Village courtesy of a "rented" bookmobile? It's time to tee off.

The opening chapter's front nine stained its pages with four unforgivable bogeys amid routine pars. A deceptively benign butterfly-and-flower arrangement should've attracted sweet chirps from beautiful birdies, but the trash created by repeated misreads made unexpected meals for hungry vultures. The surveyor loop measured its gimme putt several inches too far. Bowling pins strewn about the surface yielded multiple open frames. Owls on logs disturbed the calmness by wildly hooting during ball strikes. Holes 10-18 were far more forgiving. An upstairs-to-downstairs lane gifted aces to all contestants. Green shamrocks and wrapped candies treated would-be Rory McIlroys to red figures. Creepy zombies greeted Arnold Palmer's ghost after a Pennzoil-embossed orb quickly went into hiding. The ace down an oval stretch rounded out a respectable two-over score of 64.

Taking a break at the water fountain, I envisioned going lower in the final 54 holes. The double-bogey on #9 had been the only instance close to a disastrous blowup. If I could somehow tame the owls, perhaps I'd have a decent chance to fire an under-60 round. Withdrawing immediately from the Chesapeake Masters would've been the wisest move. Respective marks of 74, 70 and 67 translated into the salty tongue of 25-over par. Those damn hooters were solely responsible for an out-of-bounds stroke that shoved an egregious eight into the narrow potty mouth. An unsecured railing on the rubber-duck perch sent two balls off the grid for terrible triples. The four-aisle hole with a (Great) bridge lift stalled traffic for inches and nixed every attempted crossing. Once-friendly glamour bears morphed into Jack Nicklaus looking for golden hash browns at an empty buffet table. Among the few highlights in the latter stages were "sparing" the bowling section, tucking tough pars into the T-shirt area and breaking into the gated community through the unlocked slither.

My results in Chesapeake might've mirrored the Mark Twain rub about golf being "a good walk spoiled," but I'm already awaiting the announcement for next year's gathering. Should I erupt into a series of John Daly-esque tirades, it won't necessarily be to my detriment. Bad sports are often the stuff of great literature.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Dead Weather - "I Can't Hear You" (2010)

"Gossip Girl" didn't bring me here.

Russ Ballard - "I Can't Hear You No More" (1984)

 A favorite from one of Don Johnson's mixed tapes.

Hear And Now

When my brother Mike and I were on the Applebee's extended jaunt earlier this year, we would often stop into the Main Street eatery for heated trivia competitions, lively conversations with engaging barkeeps, sports coverage on multiple TV screens and half-priced appetizers. One particular date on our May schedule concerned the 2015 NFL Draft. As we piloted Mike's 1997 Honda Civic tour vehicle towards the Suffolk-based venue, a drummer friend contacted me on a recently acquired cellphone in hopes of sharing the stage with us. We agreed to meet Hoyt at the nearby Starbucks for a pre-gig jolt of iced coffee. Minutes after ending the brief call, my left ear became painfully clogged. This uncomfortable situation had been the result of foolishly jamming an index finger deeply into the already-obstructed canal. Upon exiting the Civic, both my hearing and equilibrium were seriously affected to the point of considering a double-back to Sentara Obici Hospital. Strangely, I still wanted to partner with Mike and Hoyt for trivia night and see early stages of the draft's first round. After several steps in the parking lot, however, any chance of another $25 gift-card trophy was suddenly squashed. Apologizing to Hoyt for stunting his beat, I proceeded to strike the snare for an answer to my real-life quandary.

Rather than needlessly spending hundreds of dollars on a medical bill, Mike suggested that I purchase a Walgreens Ear Wax Removal Kit for $6.99 plus tax. He had suffered from the same buildup several years ago and had used the treatment to swiftly eradicate the irritation. Since repeated yawning and excessive pounding on my right temple failed to remove any gunk, I grabbed the green box and proceeded to the cash register. As I swiped the debit card through the machine, doubts of the product's effectiveness began occupying my thoughts. Was my problem more severe than simple congestion? Did the makeshift Q-tip instantly trigger permanent loss? Would I have to undergo surgery from the professionals at Obici? Why wasn't I able to get free coffee refills in the café of said hospital? "Do you have a Rewards Card?" posed the pale redhead behind the counter. "Yes, I am a member, but I don't have physical representation of it," was my slightly haughty retort. Entering ten digits into the keypad revealed a code for an ineligible discount. "Be well," wished the drugstore darling with an Equal packet-like earnestness. Bag in hand, I prepped myself for a home-based procedure that would commence around the same time as Tampa Bay's choice of their franchise quarterback.

Under center, Mike directed me to sit down on a shoddy chair and tilt my head sideways. Gently squeezing the bottle, he placed roughly ten drops of liquid into the damaged ear. Per directions on the box, cotton was listed as an alternative to keep peroxide from seeping out of the canal. I readily nixed that idea and kept my noggin in the awkward position. As I barely heard Roger Goodell mention Jameis Winston's name at the lectern, the "It gets worse before it gets better" rub became fully realized. "THANK YOU, MIKE, FOR DUMPING THE ENTIRE NANSEMOND RIVER INTO MY LEFT EAR!!!" was what I screamed while silently playing the role of an agreeable patient. Sure, I had experienced water-related issues brought upon by showering and swimming in the past, but having an ear purposely irrigated was a different deal altogether. Once the tidal movement ceased, I was led to a bathroom sink where Mike filled the provided washer bulb with warm H2O. Flushing out the waxy contents sparked a magic "POP!" My hearing was completely restored, and I couldn't thank Mike enough for his skillful syringing. The celebration was curbed, though, when he recommended that I treat my right ear with the kit. Grudgingly, I gave Mike the go-ahead to start another round of therapy. There was less of a wall to shatter this time, so the canal accepted more peroxide into its depths. Any future benefits of preventive maintenance were temporarily nullified by my current squeamishness. Post-extraction, however, I felt more refreshed than a wireless mouse perpetually clicking on the appropriate icon. Walgreens Ear Wax Removal Kit is suitable software for an auditory reboot.

It's December 28, 2015, and an index finger is retrieving wax from my left ear. You can scold me for doing so, but I've heard it all before.