Friday, October 13, 2006

Funny How?

Let me pose a question here to open things up: Did we as a nation, as a civilization really need another Truman Capote movie this soon? What's next, a Disney animated feature, a board game, a theme park, Halloween costumes, a marching band tribute, a national holiday, dueling Capotes? Where does it end...

Last nite's episode of The_Office, the fourth show of the new season, again did not disappoint. I thought the first two shows were among the funniest half-hours of TV in a long, long time, approaching Seinfeld-in-its-prime territory before that show jumped the shark around 5 or 6 years into its reign. It was Triumph the Insult Comic Dog funny, Jackie Mason, George Carlin, laugh-out-loud-like-a-crazy-person funny. I thought Last week's episode of The Office, with Dwight threatening to usurp Michael's authority at Dunder Mifflin, rated slightly lower on the laugh-o-meter, but last nite hilarity ensued in the form of a former office manager who was decapitated and then the bird funeral -- totally surreal. Anybody who has worked in an office setting for any length of time can relate to the show: the meaningless, mind-numbing tasks you're forced to take seriously; being forced into close proximity for long periods of time with people you really can't stand; the sameness of it all day after day... That's where The Office excels. And they've lost nothing off their fastball, as the Daily News' Mike Lupica likes to say about stuff, ironically, because he's just a shadow of his former self, his columns becoming even more formulaic and predictable.

Speaking of comedy, The Onion has never been funnier. It went through a slight downturn, in my opinion, but has now come back with a vengeance, if humor can be called vengeful. And I think it can... The Onion really has to be considered one of the great humor/satire publications in American history at this point, joining the ranks of National Lampoon, Spy, Mad magazine and, of course, The New York Post. I used to read The Onion almost exclusively online, but now there's a box where I work so I can pick it up there every week. And the reviews, interviews, etc., are usually spot-on, as they say in England. It is literally one of a kind, sui generis.

Our long-awaited Astoria reunion at Riccardo's is almost upon us, with three weeks to go. Just got the updated list of paid guests, and I must confess I don't know who the hell fully half of the people are. But that's okay. Just like my 25th high school reunion (yeah, I'm an old bastard now), as long as there's alcohol, I can deal with it. We had an Astoria reunion back in late 1991, a much smaller affair involving around 30 people. This one will have 60 or 70 people. But what I want to know is, who the hell is Joe Arco, Joe Nolan, Danny Montanez? Do I know Melanie Stephanopolous or Vic Mejia? People are coming to this event from all over this great nation of ours. Hopefully I didn't make too many enemies back in the day while under the influence, knowhatImean? Didn't think so...

We had a small plane crash here Wednesday in Manhattan. I first saw it on one of the TVs here at work when I was getting ready to leave. All we knew at that point was that it was not a terrorist attack, but it wasn't until I got home and turned on the news that I discovered the accident killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, but thankfully no one else either in the building or on the ground. Of course it called to mind the 1979 plane crash of Yankees great Thurman Munson. I remember that like it was yesterday. But I think it's absurd that, after 9/11, these small planes can fly up and down the fucking East River. I mean, why regulate the air traffic around the world's biggest terror target? I'm trying to think of a way to blame conservatives for this, and it probably comes down to deregulation in some form.

Let me here relate my own experience in a four-seater plane. Back in 1980, my friend Jose was training to be a pilot, and he needed so-and-so-many flight hours up in the air to get his license. He finally talked me into going up with him. I can't tell you how scared of heights I am now, but I guess back then it didn't occur to me somehow how muy peligroso it could be. So I talked my girlfriend at the time, Kim (more on her in a minute), into joining us, and she brought her brother along. Now I forgot which airport we took off from, probably somewhere on Long Island, but we did a short one-hour sightseeing tour around Manhattan and neighboring environs, and I remember the World Trade Towers being super-close as we magnificently and daringly circled around in our flying machine. I got the chance to steer for a while as I sat next to Jose in the co-pilot's seat. That was cool! What wasn't cool was how risky it all seemed when we got back on terra firma. I mean, what if Jose had even a small seizure or heart attack or blackout...? That would have been a short, unhappy end to my magnificent existence, and of course would have deprived literally tens of people from reading this weblog all these years later. You see, I'm always thinking of others.

I was 20 years old back in 1980, that's just a fact, while Kim was only 15 years young. But she was pretty and kept coming on to me and she wore down my resistance. Her mother constantly threatened me with statutory rape charges (seriously) if I so much as touched her daughter below the forearm. But those were my punk rock days and Three Mile Island had just occurred, and as my bro Urb used to say, I'm gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. He used to quote Jim Morrison a lot those days. Anyway, we only lasted about a year together, broke up very, very acrimoniously, I was really pissed that she wouldn't give me back my stuff, including a ring that another girlfriend had given me a few years earlier, my 1971 Pop Warner football team photo... I'm getting to the point, I swear.

Cut to 20 years later. I move to a new apartment on 36th Street in Astoria. Who lives on my block but Kim and her mother! She still refuses to even look at me. As the years go by I notice she's walking with a limp, then with a cane, appearing to be stoned on painkillers, and then she can only get around in a wheelchair. It turns out she was in a really bad car crash. Finally I approached her a month ago and asked her if she remembered me and if she wanted to come to the reunion. She was friendly if a little standoffish and said she'd like to. Amazingly, she doesn't look any different, still looks around 18 years old! I probably should have tried to break the ice sooner.

Now, Tony Catalano, who organized the reunion from his palatial Florida estate, is himself wheelchair-bound, has been since 1986, when he had a horrible construction accident on a fateful rainy day. His wife at the time had a bad premonition and begged him not to go to work that day. But he went and subsequently slipped on a third-storey beam and fell to the ground, becoming paralyzed from the waist down. I remember going to see him at the NYU Medical Center in March of '86. One of the saddest things I've ever seen. His head was stabilized with one of those metal crowns that dug into his skin, and you couldn't miss the religious symbolism, at least I didn't.

Eventually, Tony recovered and moved down to Florida. A few years later, around 1991, when me & Trixter & Buddy Bider visited him, he said he had gone through the whole self-pity phase and was focusing on remaining positive about life. He picked us up in a customized van that was outfitted with a system that allowed him to roll his chair behind the steering wheel and to give most commands verbally. It was inspiring to see how upbeat he was since we last saw him. The trip itself was a dose of nonstop, good old American insanity, including but not limited to: a pregnant woman in a white gown smashing herself against a jukebox, Buddy Bider smashing his glass against the bar, speaker rocks, a bikini-clad hot dog vendor, a blenderfull of screwdrivers before the 6:30 am plane ride down, a dead Marlin in a mini-cooler, a mushroom-laced viewing of Total Recall on Laserdisc, stick lights, Ska-ball in the pool, an ill-fated dogwalk that almost turned into pet dog-icide via dangerous snake, no cover & an ultimately fruitless search for signs of intelligence...

Tony Cat, or Gatt as we called him, was an amazing athlete, not in any organized team sense, just was naturally the best at every game or sport we played -- stickball, pitching quarters, any kind of pinball game, Ace-King-Queen, stoopball, the box game, handball. You name it, he excelled at it -- along with a steady stream of what later came to be known as "trash talking," designed to get you off your game. I can still see him firing off one of his lefthanded spirals to me in touch football; with him as the quarterback and me going out for a pass, we had great chemistry. I would make a double move, he would pump fake at just the right time and then hit me with a perfect throw before I even came out of my cut... It's gonna be good to see him and my other old buddies in a few weeks.

8 comments:

katekraig said...

Barry, just read your blog, hope you don't mind...Gatt sent it...those people you mentioned, which I don't know either, but they know Gatt...So my friend, it looks like there will be a few that we both do not know...that's okay though!

See you soon sweetie,

Katie

WardensWorld said...

of course I don't mind, Kate. I appreciate all the hits I can get. I'm sure they're all nice people, it's like 6 degrees of seperation: he knows a guy who knows a guy... It's all good. As long as Frank Balducci shows up, you know we're talking par-tay!

GATT LAND said...

Brother Warden, Just sending you a thank you message for your briefing article you posted on your blog. I sent you an email,not sure if you recieved it. This is why I am sending you this post, so you know I was deeply moved and grateful. See you soon W

Mourning a batless Met failure

Brother G

ekjr said...

Ed Kelly,
Nice article always good to read about Gatt. As for the people you don't know we are about 5 years younger than you guys but we are all lucky enough to know and have hung with Gatt either at Pop's or 37st Park. The only thing I would add to your story of Gatt is watching him play softball at 37st park. Batting lefty and automatically swatting the ball into the paddleball courts!!!! By the way I'm the younger brother of Jimmy Kelly. See you there we'll raise a glass to Gatt and Kate for putting this reunion together and everyone who shows.
See You,
Ed Kelly

GATT LAND said...

Some names Barry, you may not recognize, but for sure will remember once you see them. They were all a good group & you actually played ball & hung out with them too back in the day.....

A GREAT NIGHT AHEAD!!!!!!!

Brother G

katekraig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
katekraig said...

I'm getting all teary-eyed here you boys...

Can't wait to see everyone and what, only Frank Balducci can bring on the par-tay...I would think again my friend...Katie will be in the HOUSE! hehehehe! Not to mention all/most of 37th street crew...we might be getting older, but we always new how to party!

See you all soon!

Love ya,

Katie

GATT LAND said...

Katie, well said & documented.....

1 1/2 weeks to go


See you soon...

TG