“Dead Finnegan rises from the coffin bawling for whiskey.” Care to join him?
Just past dawn, Dogpark Gary tells me all about quarterback Drew Brees, who was Raggedy Ann’d into the turf the other day by Big Foot, an opposing lineman.
This was a felony; in real life, Big Foot would get three years. Brees got up slowly, played a little more football, then slinked off to the sideline like a damaged sparrow.
“If your quarterback isn’t the toughest guy on your team, you’re in trouble,” I once heard about quarterbacks.
And little Drew Brees is tough as Army sirloin.
It was like in “Othello” when the entire Turkish fleet is lost. You could feel the quarterback’s pain in the way he walked and moved. In the movies, the orchestra would swell, French horns would gust, followed by a plaintive oboe solo that sounded like a softly crying mother.
As you know, I don’t dwell on bad stuff. I’m all about first kisses and pumpkin pie moments. And “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” a burgeoning Thanksgiving tradition that has its funny moments but also its share of melancholy.
I’m not sure we’re in balance unless we’re in tune to all those things – a jigger of happy, a splash of vermouth, a floater of melancholy — though I tend to stress first kisses and pumpkin pie. Eyes forward. Full speed ahead.
Anyway, Dogpark Gary knows a little about life as well. I see him five mornings a week at the park, where we hang out as our dogs tumble and play. Gary is wry and thoughtful and doesn’t dwell on life’s crud, though he is a little bummed about the current state of things.
“I just dunno anymore,” he’s fond of saying.
This day, Dogpark Gary is telling me he knows just how Drew Brees feels, because he himself once had a urinary tract infection that hit him so hard that he fell and busted a couple of ribs, which is almost exactly what happened to Drew Brees, except that a 400-pound lineman landed on top of Brees after he fell, so there’s that little detail to consider.
In any case, Dogpark Gary reported that his cracked ribs were excruciating. His wife was out of town, so Dogpark Gary drove himself to Urgent Care, where a Russian doctor – really, you were expecting an American? – suggested he should sleep directly on the fractured ribs.
That seemed a little too Russian to Dogpark Gary — to sleep peacefully on your own broken bones. He ended up sleeping in an easy chair, propped sideways, like a sensible American.
“All I got was Tylenol with a little extra codeine,” Dogpark Gary said.
To my mind, Dogpark Gary is just as tough as Drew Brees and about the same age (77). They are both headed (I hope) to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where I will give Gary’s induction speech.
“Let me tell you a little bit about courage,” I’ll begin. “It all started with a urinary tract infection…”
Point is, we never know what’s going to happen in the next instant, do we? We all have our Shakespearean moments. But we know we have to get up off the turf and sometimes drive ourselves to Urgent Care, where a Russian doctor will send us off to sleep sideways in a chair and pretty much repair ourselves.
“I’d have driven you to Urgent Care,” I tell Dogpark Gary.
“I didn’t know you then,” he says.
I told him that the next time he crushes his ribs like Drew Brees, he should call me right away.
Dogpark Gary seemed skeptical that I would actually show up.
I assured him I would, assuming there was no real inconvenience on my part, and that I wasn’t in the middle of a first kiss, or watching one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld, or baking lopsided cupcakes for the new neighbors.
“I’ll remember that,” Dogpark Gary says with a smirk.
“No, I’m serious,” I tell him.
“You’re never serious,” he says.
Well, he’s got me there. Reality and I have had a few run-ins, and I don’t care for it much. I prefer to float through life like an escaped balloon. Day to day, I’m pretty much just a silly dude with plastic dog bags in every pocket, still trying to figure out how Google Docs works.
Yesterday, I never actually touched the ground. I’d had a good morning of writing, and then Spectrum offered us 400 mbps of extra data for only 20 bucks, something I neither want nor even understand, though I really appreciated the unsolicited e-mail.
Sometimes, I think Spectrum is the nicest person I know. Writes me constantly!
Then in the evening, I’d hung out with a book club at Eileen’s house in Glendale. That gave me a bit of a helium turbo-boost. And her husband mixes a mean G & T.
Eileen and four of her friends have been in this book club for 20 years. Though one member moved to China, the other original members are all still here: Jennifer, Julie, Janet and Roxane. Dinner was brought in from Julienne’s in San Marino, so that’s certainly part of the allure.
“There’s a waiting list,” Eileen assures me.
“Put me down!” I say.
“Not sure you qualify,” she says.
Like a lot of book clubs, this one is more about friendship than books, though I did tell them how much I’d enjoyed “The Art of Fielding,” a novel I read over the summer.
I also mentioned that incredible new blockbuster, “Lavender in Your Lemonade,” which I wrote but have yet to read. If I remember right, it’s all about lemonade. Critics are calling it the literary equivalent of a flu shot.
That’s good, right?
In any case, they have a lot of laughs together, these book clubbers — a lot of kids and a lot of laughter, and they are going strong after two decades together.
And we are, too, you and I. Yeah, you. And I.
Look at all we have in common. We plow ahead in tough times; we pick ourselves off the turf. We enjoy John Candy and Steve Martin no matter how many times we see them together.
And cool older guys like Dogpark Gary.
Yesterday, I got a 2021 calendar from my State Farm rep. I see that as an omen, that a new year is almost here, that things will soon be better. I do believe I see hope on the horizon.
As per Joyce: “Dead Finnegan rises from the coffin bawling for whiskey.”
Sure, kind of an ornery Irish hope. But hope just the same.
You know, stories bring us together. In movies, and in summer novels, we pass along our values and our mirth.
As I always say: The better the ending, the better the story.
And the better the friends, the better the life.
Can I interest you in a Happy Hour Hiking Club t-shirt? How about a handsome set of Gin & Tonic Society cocktail glasses? Welcome to my humble online gift shop. It’s easy to use, and the commemorative items are very reasonable (set of 4 gin glasses is $25). Thank you in advance for your support as we look for ways to subsidize the website (and feed White Fang). Props to my lovely and patient older daughter, her new husband, Finn, and Jim Cosgrove for setting it all up. Info: https://chriserskine.orderpromos.com. Coming soon: A Thanksgiving weekend hike. Also coming soon: The Dec. 9 Gin-gle Bell Ball.