Posts Tagged ‘free stuff’

the hardwood club.

11 April 2009

we turned into an underground parking lot beneath the arena, lined with newly-waxed black cars. handing off the keys to the valet, she turned to us and said, they wash your car during the game. we continued through the arch of a metal detector, entering the building where the charlotte bobcats were about to play their last home game of the season against the philadelphia seventy-sixers. everyone came up to greet us as we walked along the concrete floors in the bowels of the coliseum, then passed through a curtain, finding our seats between the visitor’s bench and scorekeeper’s table.

they had purchased the tickets one night out of boredom, looking for something to do at night. they bought two extra so they could entertain friends. everyone was so polite to them that we felt it worth mentioning, as if they hadn’t noticed. they told us that that year before they had been invited on a road trip to minnesota, aboard the team jet, because they had always stopped to talk to everyone associated with the organization, and that was their reward, they supposed, for being generous with their time.

they lead us toward a restaurant full of season ticket holders, and we inquired if that was where we were headed. no, that club has three hundred members; ours has thirty. after talking with the ushers assembled in the doorway, we passed into a small room with three high tables in the middle and plush chairs along the outside. there was a chef slicing prime rib and a buffet counter with trays of asparagus, mashed potatoes, rolls, and corn-on-the-cob. we filled our plates turning to the bar where a man asked us if we wanted a single or double. what’s the price difference?, my friend asked, in similar amazement at being brought here as a guest. they’re both free, was the reply. we both ordered doubles and a shot of whiskey, also at no charge. while we ate, we took note of a man asking if the chef could put his prime rib on a roll, and she obliged.

we returned to our seats for the first quarter, players standing within feet of us as they waited to be substituted into the game. i glanced at the computer to my right, then announced to the group a team’s shooting percentage or how a certain player already had two fouls. when the buzzer sounded, we returned to the club, choosing a prime rib sandwich, another double, and an accompanying shot. it was getting warm, so our hosts suggested placing our jackets in their locker. we went down the row of lockers, reading the names — so-and-so motorsports, the blank corporation, this-and-that incorporated (not actual company names) — until we arrived at theirs, merely listed under their surname. also, they had two.

we continued in this pattern: watching some basketball and returning to the club for drink refills. during halftime we stepped outside. we helped ourselves to the pile of candy left for the players on the announce table. late in the game, after someone running the length of the court lofted his gum toward the desk, we even advised the other players to watch their step. during the fourth quarter, aided by the free drinks and, likely also, by the idea that we were in a dream, we stood up, alternating between shouting encouragement to the home team and lambasting the referees for their botched calls.

at the end of the game, we told our hosts that we would like to tell our friends about our night but no one would believe us. my knowledge of basketball hadn’t increased much. i knew a few more names and a few more statistics thanks to my seating position (by the way, raymond felton scored a career high thirty-two points). most importantly, the bobcats won by three, so now i’m seen as a lucky charm or talisman to be welcomed to games next season.

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the river that flows into the sands.

29 January 2009

admittedly, i have a very limited experience of wakes, but they seem like an awkward version of this is your life. in attendance was the man who sold us our house twenty years ago. also, my dental hygienist. i’m chalking it up to vocational bias that she looked at my teeth while saying, i haven’t seen you in so long. there were peers i haven’t seen since high school, relatives i haven’t seen since childhood, and many of my mom’s coworkers whom i didn’t even realize existed.

the room was lined with flower arrangements sent to the funeral home on our behalf. near the entranceway a video played, combining pictures of my mom and family with beach scenes lifted from postcards, minus the script reading i wish you were here or the text of footprints in the sand. i kept lifting up the dvd case and making jokes, like i’ve been trying to rent this but it’s always loaned out or hey, wasn’t this due back at blockbuster on tuesday? an easel held a large card for guests to sign. a few of the messages brought tears to my eyes.

everyone wanted to greet me, as if i was dave eggers on a book tour. i caught them up on what i’ve been doing, explaining that i technically live in greensboro, though i’m technically technically still in charlotte. i made small talk. i shook hands. i hid outside.

right now, i really, really do not want to quote from a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, but all of us know it will happen, even if most are surprised that it has taken this long, considering the events of the previous few months, not to mention the inordinate amount of recommendations i’ve been given, even if my only similarity to the author is our placement on the sexual-orientation scale.

okay, so maybe we have other commonalities, but i’m still going to resist quoting from the book because i’ve never been able to read beyond the exceedingly self-indulgent (yes, i know, pot calling kettle), insufficiently clever forty-something-page introduction. however, if any of its advocates would be willing to lend me their dog-eared copy, i’ll do my best to finish the contents and ship it back to you. in return, perhaps i can arrange a teeth cleaning.

gifts and presents are on me.

3 December 2008

the following was written by a man with a developmental disability who emptied the garbage cans and vacuumed the carpets when my mother worked for the association for retarded citizens four years ago. every time he came to the office he brought invitations for future events in his life.

i hope you come to my 50th, fond farewell, and to my 100th birthday party celebration on february 14, 2016, june 27, 2025, and february 14, 2066, at 6:00 pm at the koury convention center. you’ll meet all of the other fine celebrities from new york and from hollywood. we’re gonna have fried chicken dinner with cole slaw and creamed potatoes and biscuits. drinks and desserts. gifts and presents are on me. hope you’ll feel better. get well soon and god bless you. thank you.

i’ve always wanted to say, regrettably, on the night of your one hundredth birthday party, i will be with my valentine.

the battle of who could care less.

11 November 2008

a few years ago i heard about a research project conducted on public bathrooms that found that sensitive men use the middle stalls. since then i’ve always made a conscious effort to be a sensitive man, just in case the study’s acolytes are at the row of sinks, gauging potential suitors. even though i haven’t been able to find anything on the internet to corroborate these findings, which is leading me to believe i imagined them, i don’t see any reason to discontinue this practice.

unfortunately i was only privy to my own thoughts upon entering the men’s bathroom at nassau coliseum. obviously there were those who wondered where colin powell was seated after dropping the game’s first puck or if it was true, as had been speculated, that he was escorted to the roof and taken by helicopter back to washington. ten thousand people or less marveled at the free camouflage hat given away at the door and many tried to take pictures to send to their friends whose other obligations (work, distance, intelligence) kept them from the game. a few calculated how low they could bid on an autographed picture of rick dipietro with a yellowed section of game-used net and still win the auction. many wished that the member of the cast of entourage in attendance had been this guy rather than this guy, who is about four and a half feet tall in person (apparently the camera adds a few inches of height as well). some would have even preferred this guy, though they’d insist he adopt a different facial expression. a couple of people wanted to see this guy, but only so they could punch him in the face.

don’t get me wrong, there were also those who thought about the actual game, those questioning the national hockey league’s decision to replace the puck with a hot potato, as players consistently lobbed uninspired passes to the opposing team. the referees tried to help out the last-place islanders by giving them two five-on-three power plays but the team was too busy yawning to shoot. in acknowledgment of the lackadaisical play of the first period the islanders’ second period jersey featured a calico kitten sleeping beside a reddish-orange ball of yarn, the flyers mascot became a combination of three-toed sloth and flightless bird.

it wasn’t always like this in long island. for the first few years of my life, i thought that it was a requirement that the new york islanders be awarded the stanley cup, the team winning four years in a row following my introduction to the game (well, if i assume my introduction to the game came during my ninth month of life — and i ignored all the talk, during the 1979-1980 season, surrounding the montreal canadiens, last year’s champions).

just when the crowd was deciding on creative ways to end the game, russian roulette being, far and away, the top choice, danny briere faked a slap shot before wristing the puck over joey macdonald to make it 1-0. the only reason anyone stayed for the conclusion was that every child in attendance got to step on the ice and take a shot on goal. until then everyone sat on their hands as the intensity of the game demanded.

shaping tomorrow’s leaders.

2 October 2008

in the morning i’m visiting a dairy farm, self-proclaimed as an udderly cool place, in canton, georgia, where, at the end of a one and half hour tour, i’ve been promised a free half pint of either whole or chocolate milk.

admittedly i could have left atlanta by now, venturing out to the interstate where, in all likelihood, i’d be able to fill up, but i was fearful my fate would parallel those we saw at a station where gasoline was expected soon. at nine pm, a man in line told us he’d been there since three because he had heard a rumor. it was a shanty town, with abadoned cars and feral dogs, small fires and hucksters selling panacea.

the reason for my delay in returning to charlotte, then, is that i’m spending time with two people i’ve known for over a decade and their son. during high school we spent most of our waking moments — and quite a few sleeping ones — together. this frequency continued with only a slight abatement through college. for graduate school, they moved to new york city, and i visited only occasionally on the way to and from my own form of higher education in vermont.

their son was born about twenty-five months ago. this is the second time i’ve seen him, the first being a year ago and, thankfully, his head no longer looks like an egg perched atop a toothpick. he speaks in this staccato french-sounding language (curl e na translated into english becomes squirrels eat nuts). since i’ve been here i’ve taught him a lot of important things. for instance, i taught him how to lick my big toe, though i could only get him to do that once. also, i showed him how much fun it is to put ice down someone’s shirt (well, until you get a handful in your diaper). he takes me outside to show me insects; i pick them up to show him their iridescent wings up close. i keep telling people that i’m not his parent and, therefore, i can’t be expected to stop him from pouring sand on a little girl after borrowing her pail at the park (yeah, he did that and it was so awesome my eyes welled up with pride). i’m only responsible for coming around every once in a while to show him cool things, guaranteeing his high school popularity.

after my morning tea finished steeping, i gave him the bag and showed him how he could swing it like a pendulum, and, if he wanted, hit people in the face. he ran around the house with it held as far in front of him as his arm could reach. later, when his father returned to the room, i told the boy (pictured here after scalping the family dog) to show him what he had learned. go teabag, daddy, i repeatedly called out to him, my little puppet pupil, excitedly.


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