The Righteous Brother

When I was in middle school, my father nicknamed me “the righteous brother”.

It was not a compliment.

Nor was he comparing my singing skill to one-half of the famous singing duo of “Unchained Melody” fame. And it was certainly not a way to earn any street cred. It was in direct reference to my annoying and judgmental tendency to preach morality to my two younger sisters. I was also a tattletale. Though I prided myself back then on my high horse of morality, I would be amiss to say that I didn’t have an ulterior motive: getting my little sisters in trouble.

However, my attempts at getting my sisters in trouble more often than not backfired. Therefore, I was teased for being the annoying, prudish brother who had to learn to lighten up. Getting teased by my peers was one thing, But my own family?

Of course, being a “righteous brother” had its benefits: by the time I got to high school, I didn’t have a curfew like other classmates because I was always home early enough not to warrant one (fewer friends = less time for late-night hijinks). In truth, my straight-laced “righteous” behavior had less to do with morality and more to do with being afraid of getting in trouble.

To put it simply, I was a wuss.

My cowardice emerged at a very early age. There is even photographic evidence to prove it.

EXHIBIT A: I was just short of turning one and I’m being held in the arms of a clown at my hometown Memorial Day parade. There was no turning back.

EXHIBIT B: This same look of fear is duplicated over several photos taken on the lap of Santa and the Easter Bunny. Santa is scary enough. The Easter Bunny’s soul-piercing black eyes and inanimate expression is even more frightening. Most kids grow out of this by the time they are five or six. I was still showing fear well beyond that. On a semi-related note, the fact I still believed in Santa at the age of 12 did little to help my cause.

EXHIBIT C: I am just shy of three. My hands are held tightly over my ears as tears stream down my face. The source of such abject terror? … a kite, flown by my dad in the parking lot of the church behind our house. I was scared of the flapping sound it made in the wind.

EXHIBIT D: I firmly believed that fireworks could put a hole in the sky.

EXHIBIT E: I was convinced that Sesame Street characters lived in the vents of our car.

As I got older, my phobias increased, extending to lighting matches, bees, basements, and routine blood tests (of which even the smallest amount has caused me to pass out).

Being the Gemini that I am (and me, too!) there are a few scattered moments where the righteous brother demonstrated signs of unrighteousness. Granted, it was often accidental. Some could write volumes about such rebellious behavior. I just need a few pages. Although these instances are far and few between, it is my hope that sharing them could perhaps earn the slightest modicum of street cred (of which the first step is to probably avoid using such pompous words as “modicum”):

 

Tearing it Up

Lying to cover up a crime is the oldest trick in the book. And it usually begins in childhood. I learned this lesson in the first grade after intentionally stomping all over a classmate’s steno notebook when nobody was looking. I didn’t even know whose notebook it was, yet, for forces beyond my control, I noticed it on the floor and felt compelled to destroy it.

Mutilate it.

Tear it to shreds.

Once the crime was uncovered, the teacher pulled each of us into the hallway one by one in an attempt at coaxing a confession out of them. I feigned ignorance. And though I was relieved to have gotten away with it, the guilt was tearing me up.

This is my confession.

 

Playing in the Street

When I was five, I told my two-year-old sister to stand in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a matter of not knowing any better… nor was it a matter of me attempting to kill her (I think I made sure no cars were coming).

My motivation was to get her in trouble. Instead, all it managed was to get me in trouble. Within seconds after she entered the street, my parents burst out the front door and scooped up my sister out of harm’s way.

I received my first grounding: one week without friends, which was not that difficult for somebody with no friends.

 

Hoser

It was a dog day of summer. I was playing in the front yard with a hose, keeping cool, when I spotted our neighbor, ‘Mr. K’, driving down the street. I was suddenly overcome with the impulse to aim the house at his car and directly through the driver side window. It was a direct shot to the face.

I had absolutely zero motive. He was the kindest neighbor you could ever ask for.   Yet, here I was, spraying him through in the face with a hose while he operated a moving vehicle.

Upon impact, he slammed on his brakes and rightfully started scolding me.

“What in the hell did you do that for?!” he said, wiping the water off his face with a handkerchief.

I stood there helplessly mute, dripping hose still in hand.

My mother ran out to see what was going on. She apologized, took me inside, and sent me to my room to think about what I had done.

There wasn’t enough time in the world to make sense of what I had done. But, at least I was sorry. When I later apologized, Mr. K simply smiled and said:

“Apology accepted.”

 

JELL-O

On a similar note, I once decided to fling a spoonful of Jell-O and Cool Whip at my cousin Jimmy’s face. Unprovoked.

 

“Do me, Baby!”

Struggling to gain acceptance from my peers, I decided to tell classmates that my sister’s animatronic Cricket doll said “Do me, baby.” I was in fourth grade. And I did not even know what “do me” means.

Cricket was a female contemporary of Teddy Ruxpin – robotic dolls that play cassette tapes inserted into their ass. As the tapes play, their eyes and mouths are programmed to move along with it. Neither one of them – or anything of their ilk – say “Do me, baby.”

This led to my first and only time that I was punished in school. And it resulted in me getting a stern warning from the cigar-chomping principal.

I also had to write a note for my parents that said: “Today in school, I told my classmates that my sister’s Cricket doll said “’Do me, baby.’” It will not happen again. And I am sorry.”

I kept my promise.

 

High Ball Wrestling

When I was little, I frequently goaded my cousin Tony into wrestling matches at holiday functions at my grandparents’ house. To paint a better picture of this matchup: I was a skinny, weak toothpick and Tony was…husky. Without fail, Tony would agree to wrestle, only to then promptly pummel me. Like clockwork, I would scream for help, at which point Tony would get scolded. The frequency that this scenario played itself out was on par with Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football. I promised not cry for help, yet sure enough, I did.

Every time.

One time, around the age of 10, I found a new way to get Tony into trouble. This time, it would involve booze. While standing at the drink table, I convinced Tony to let me make him a high ball “just like Grandpa.”  My cousins and I enjoyed “Jr. Highballs” (Squirt and cherry juice), but this time, I added a generous splash of whiskey to Tony’s drink (not mine).

When we were caught, everyone immediately blamed Tony. But eventually, I confessed.

 

Take this Gift and Shove It

When I was seven, I opened up a Christmas gift from my Godmother Jo-Jo. Upon seeing that it was a boring sweater – rather than a toy – I shoved the box containing the sweater immediately onto the floor to demonstrate my disapproval.

 

Hot Popcorn

One way to really piss your parents off is to place a pan of freshly popped popcorn onto their brand new, white Formica countertop.

 

Blowing Chunks

When I was little, I had a track record of puking where one shouldn’t. Take, for example,  the time the time I entered my parents’ bedroom to inform them that I had to puke, only to proceed to puke right on their floor in front of their bed. (Some of which splashed onto the bedspread). I was 10.  And it was a longer walk to their room than it was the bathroom.

Another time, I made into the bathroom on time, but chose to puke into the sink, rather than the toilet, which was directly behind it.

 

No Horseplaying

 

I once accidentally slammed a bedroom door on my baby sister’s index finger. It flattened like a pancake. My parents took her straight to the ER. Fortunately, the bones of children that young are so malleable, they will inflate right back to its normal shape.

 

Sucker Slap

Everybody has a breaking point. And even though I found turning the other cheek to be a convenient way to cope with my bullies, one day I finally decided that I had enough with one in particular. After years of putting up with it, the time had finally come to take a stance – which sadly only consisted of a half-assed, weak slap (or, more specifically, a mild graze) across my bully’s cheek while he was chomping on his bologna sandwich in the cafeteria.

His immediate reaction was to laugh, then continue eating his sandwich as though nothing had happened. The bullying didn’t let up. In fact, it was about to become worse.

 

 

 

 

Snack Size

Seeing Stars

I’ve never been in a fight before. But I have been pushed, shoved, knocked down, dunked under water, tied to a tree, and shoved into dogshit). And then one time, punched in the face.

I was minding my own business, sipping on an Appletini when some asshole approached me from the other side of the patio fencing.

“Hey, bro,” he began. “Give me a sip of that.”

“Sorry, man,” I politely refused.

Without a word, he cold-cocked me right in the eye.

And I was down for the count!

Next thing I knew, I woke up, lying on the ground and surrounded by my wife and friends, a couple of police officers, and a pair of paramedics. When I finally came to, I could still see stars, along with a couple of paramedics staring down at me, and my wife.

Despite the throbbing sensation in my eye, I never felt manlier than I did in that moment. I survived a real punch! And that takes guts.

Last, but not least, the suspect was quickly apprehended by police.

 

Got a Light?

While trudging through a snow-covered parking lot in downtown Detroit after leaving a bar, my friend Patrick and I were approached by a half a dozen or so individuals that we pretended not to feel threatened by.

“Hey!” one of them shouted to us.

We kept walking, hoping they would just leave us alone.

“Hey! You got a light?”

“Sure,” Patrick said.

We were both relieved that we were worried about nothing…despite the guilt for judging them too quickly.

Patrick reached into his pocket, only to be sucker-punched squarely in the jaw. He momentarily lost his balance, but somehow, stayed on his feet.  The perpetrators put up their dukes, seemingly prepared for a brawl. But they couldn’t have picked two gigger pussies. We had no interest in fighting back.

We simply turned our other cheeks and bee-lined it to the car, without further repercussions. What exactly was their motive? Clearly, they didn’t need a lighter. Was it a bet? Some sort of gang initiation? What would have happened if we retaliated? Fortunately, we never found out.

 

My Tarantino Moment

A few years ago, I was staying with a friend in a seedy part of the San Fernando Valley.  While loading up my rental car before heading to the airport, I turned around and spotted three Mexican men walking down the street in my direction.

I wouldn’t have thought much of it, other than the fact that one of them was brandishing an assault rifle. In broad daylight.

I froze in terror, not quite believing what I was seeing. Surely, this was a dream. But it wasn’t. Were they going hunting? I reminded myself I was in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.

As the men drew nearer, I realized that freezing in my tracks wasn’t my best option. I had to hide. But where? Did they even see me? And if they did, was my ass grass? And why was nobody else around?

I turned to head back to my friend’s apartment, however her building was gated and locked behind me. And she had already left for work. I pulled out my phone to dial 911, but I had no signal!

I was shit out of luck.

This was how it would all end.

I scrambled to hide behind a wall. I could still see the men from my hiding spot (which, looking back, didn’t exactly put me out of harm’s way). But they had passed by without incident. I waited until they disappeared out of sight. I then ran fast as lightning to my car and headed to the airport.

Perhaps these things happened all the time in the valley.

 

Free Porn

When I was 14, my family was visiting my cousin and her husband. In their basement was a shrine to Marilyn Monroe. Like any 14-year-old boy, my hormones were naturally raging, so I was especially drawn to a fully nude pic of her snow-white body sprawled out on red sheets in all her glory.

Realizing I was alone, I began snooping around a storage room and stumbled upon a large stack of Penthouse magazines. After much deliberation, I decided to stuff a copy down my pants (“Is that Penthouse in your pocket?”) to sneak home. I kept it  successfully hidden in my desk drawer for years. The only porno magazine I ever “owned.”

 

Dune Climber

 

On the very tip of Cape Cod lies the beautiful resort town of Provincetown – the “San Francisco” of the east coast. Several year ago, my first wife and I took a sunset stroll along the Cape Cod National Seashore on the edge of town.

After walking about a 1/4 mile away from the main beach, we noticed several makeshift tents perched on top of the dunes along the coast. My first thought was that it was perhaps homeless colony.

But upon closer examination, it was a colony of gay men. Dozens sunbathed outside their tents. And several more were fucking both inside and outside their tents. A mere 50 feet away or so. We tried our best to mind our business and continued walking.

The closer we got to the tip of the Cape, the more bizarre things became. Naked men surrounded us, passing us by in either direction, brazenly walking along the shore, strutting their junk for all to see.

Like a car accident, it was hard not to look – more than likely more so for my wife, than me, but honestly, who was keeping track? They seemed to be increasing in number. We approached an inlet pond, where dozens of naked men swam to and fro like giant Sea-Monkeys. Or, Mermen.

A gay man’s paradise.

I have never been much of an exhibitionist. However, something got into me. Not sure if it was the beautiful nature that surrounded us, or the swarm of naked men, but I was suddenly inspired to join in. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So I did. I removed my t-shirt and swimsuit, and joined the masses. My wife left her clothes on, opting to remain an outcast, as we pushed further toward the tip.

 

Holy Pilgrimage

I briefly dated a girl in college that I had met in the infancy of online dating. Being that I was an English major and she was an actress, we decided to see Shakespeare in Love on our first date, followed by a gourmet meal at … Big Boy. Half way through our meal, following my second run at the soup and salad bar, I came down with a horrible case of pink eye.

Taking a date to Big Boy, combined with a steady stream of ooze running out of your eye is never good. In fact, going to Big Boy on a date PERIOD is probably not the best idea. (This was not the last time, either. A year or so later, there was another Big Boy date involving diarrhea that I will spare the details of).

Despite the puss oozing out of my eye, we still made out afterward. In the parking lot of a church where once upon a time, the house where I spent the first three years of my life once stood. Just a few yards away was the spot where I cried over the sound my kite made flapping in the wind – one of my earliest memories.

 

 

Bringing My Mitt

I fell in love for the first time in the 8th grade. This time, despite my endless, unrequited crushes, it wasn’t with another human being. I fell hopelessly, endlessly, passionately, and head over heels with the great American pastime: baseball. Infatuation quickly morphed into a full-blown love affair, the flames of which have never extinguished.

More specifically, I fell in love with my hometown team: the Detroit Tigers – on the cusp of their lowest point in franchise history. How fitting.

Not only did I quickly develop a kinship with the boys of summer, but I gained both a refuge and a gateway into acceptance. Though I sucked at sports, I convinced myself that being a fan would somehow improve my social standing.

It didn’t. But baseball certainly made my life feel more complete.

Like the Tigers, I also endured a lot of losing during that time – a steady stream of rejections, epitomized by bullying, my dating life, and eventual writing life.

Like any good marriage, I have stuck with my #1 team for better or for worse, through sickness and through health, from April through October. Enduring off-seasons are like the equivalent of having a partner who must take leave for a long period of time, making the promised reunion all the most resonant. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, as evidenced with the arrival of every April, when I find myself loving the game even more than I did the previous season.

And just like I have never given up on my dream, I have remained devoted to my #1 team for better or for worse, through sickness and through health, from April through October. Enduring off-seasons are like the equivalent of having a partner who must take leave for a long period of time, making the promised reunion all the most resonant. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, as evidenced with the arrival of every April, when I find myself somehow loving the game even more than I did the previous season.

I was fueled with consistent optimism that both myself and my team would go all the way. Living life with eternal optimism certainly has its perks, but it also means enduring an endless parade of unmet expectations. And sacrificing the present in exchange for a brighter future.

My first exposure to the game actually took place several years before my passion soared into full-flight when my parents signed me up for recreational tee-ball. It didn’t take long before it was obvious that I would become a much better fan than I ever was going to be a player. The bullying from my opponents and my teammates didn’t help matters. Nor, did being afraid of the ball. Nor, did running to the wrong base (e.g. running from home to third … on a strikeout). Sure, I was only a beginner. But I was still running to third at the end of the season, too. At least I wasn’t running on strikeouts anymore.

Somehow, my failed tee-ball experiment managed to plant a seed deep within my subconscious, years before it would eventually blossom into full fandom, of which there are several different levels: fanatics, moderates, and bandwagon. Overall, I’d say I landed in the moderate category, with a sprinkling of superstitions that occasionally push me into the realm of fanatic. I can certainly never be accused of being a bandwagon fan, which is attested by my unwavering, optimistic devotion to my hometown team, no matter how bad they may be. And for most of my formative years, there was no shortage of bad.

I certainly wasn’t raised in an environment that was conducive to becoming a sports fan. My father gave two shits about sports. My mother watched baseball on TV every now and then, as I begged to watch reruns of Facts of Life or Diff’rent Strokes. Like many other kids, my father didn’t take me

to my first game. Instead, I was taken by my Grandma’s longtime boyfriend., Chuck At the time, my excitement was measured only by hot dogs, nachos, and Cracker Jack, as opposed to base hits, home runs, and stolen bases. Chuck had season tickets to old Tiger Stadium (lower-deck, third base side, a few rows back from the Tigers’ dugout – paradise for a “real” fan) and took me to several games each summer throughout my youth. Beyond that, I never tuned into games at home and never had any idea – or interest – in what their record was (which during that time, was a blessing). In fact, I barely paid attention to the score while watching it live.

But then came 8th grade.

That was when I made a conscious decision to become a devoted follower of the Tigers. The seed had finally taken root, making me a late-bloomer in both sports and puberty. Perhaps subconsciously, I figured if I liked sports, than my peers would like me. But that wasn’t the case. It was also 1990. The Tigers were so bad, I quickly learned that there was nothing cool about being a Tigers fan and therefore, with no friends to play with, I had more time to watch baseball on a regular basis.

There was no turning back. My theory was that I simply saw enough reruns of Facts of Life to last a lifetime. It was time for something new. It was time to become a man.

I remember that first Opening Day as a christened-fan. My school had a half-day. My mom prepared egg salad sandwiches, which I ate while I read the season preview in the Detroit News. With game time less than an hour away, my baseball journey was about to take full flight.

And there was certainly plenty of space left on the bandwagon, which was not only empty – but running on fumes. By the end of the decade, the The Tigers had amassed more losses than any other team. Things didn’t get much better at the turn of the century, either. Despite the losses, I continued cheering them on, taking jabs from family and friends for my blind devotion, and watching just about every game with the hope that things were finally going to turn around and that my allegiance would make things all the more sweeter if – when – they finally did win. And if you are an eternal optimist like myself… life was always a matter of when.

Despite the losing, nothing dampened my enthusiasm for my beloved team – the tell-tale sign of true love. Of course, I wanted them to win more than anything, but I knew that it was only a matter of time.

I just had to be patient – a skill that would later serve me very well in my writing endeavors. Through the years, my patience and optimism never waned, in the face of logic, reason, and Vegas odds.

Despite the endless losing, I became instantly obsessed with absorbing every detail and intricacy of the game: the sights, the smells, the sounds, the box scores, the standings, the endless parade of stats – in short, anything and everything about the American pastime, which was now my pastime, even though I still couldn’t play it worth a lick. It was during that summer that I also got my first big-boy glove, which I promptly oiled up (the warm, nostalgic smell is as vivid now as it was then) and placed under the tires of my parents’ black Dodge van in order to break it in. That fall, it became the subject of an essay I wrote in my 10th grade English class entitled “My Most Prized Possession.” An essay that simultaneously showcased my passion, overshadowed by delusions of grandeur:

“When I look at my mitt, I feel hope that someday, I will be the greatest baseball player ever. It seems to hold a bit of magic that allows me to feel like a real ballplayer.”

I optimistically concluded the essay with:

“One more thing. My mother told me when I entered high school that I would make the baseball team my senior year. I laughed at this comment. But as I look at my mitt, I wonder. And hope…”

Though I never made the baseball team, it was in this very class that my writing dream was born.

And although that seemingly magical glove was de-commissioned a long time ago, I still have it safely packed away in a box full of childhood memories. To this day, it still remains one of my most-prized possessions – a symbol of never giving up. It still smells of oil … from that long ago summer. As I sometimes do with my old security blanket, I often take it out for a dose of instant nostalgia.

Countless summer afternoons were spent adorning my prized glove on one hand and bouncing a tennis ball off of the orange brick of my house with the other, as I waited for the Detroit News to arrive so I could devour the sports section This was often the highlight of my day.

When I got bored of tossing a tennis ball against the wall, I would simply hop on my blue and yellow Huffy and take a bag filled with baseballs to my neighborhood park, proceeding to hit them one after another with my Louisville Slugger, before gathering them all up and doing it all over again from the opposite side of the field. It didn’t matter that I was doing it alone. I was enjoying every second of it.

At family gatherings, I would ask my countless cousins “Did you bring your mitt?” They usually didn’t. But of course, I did. And I never lost hope that someday, they would bring theirs. I still get teased about this till this day. When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, her funeral was held at the church just down the street from the house. On the grounds of a church was a baseball diamond. While standing in the parking lot with some of my cousins, overlooking the now weed-strewn field and mourning my grandmother’s passing, I asked – in a moment of levity – “Did anyone bring their mitt?” We all laughed. Some things never die. And for the record, I always keep my mitt in my trunk. Just in case.

During my junior year, I somehow found the confidence to try out for the JV team and put my mom’s prediction to the test. By that point, I had found a safe haven in band class. And though band did nothing to improve my athletic ability, it certainly boosted my confidence – socially, at least.  I knew I didn’t have a realistic shot, but I had recently taught myself how to throw a decent side-arm pitch, so, I figured what the hell?

In the end, I failed. Though coaches admire heart, most have no need for a pitcher with zero velocity in combination with the uncanny ability of being able to consistently toss a meatball over the heart of the plate. My years of “training” did little to help – other than preparing me to lose. At least the coach thanked me for trying out. I took that for what it was worth. The fact that the baseball coach acknowledged my existence was a victory in itself. And thus ended my high school athletic career. One thing was clear: I was always going to be a much better fan than I ever was a player. But I could live with that.

Three summers later, I formed a co-ed softball team through my church. The only thing more unlikely than becoming a manager of a sports team would have been becoming a gym teacher. Yet, there I was. In charge of a team that I assembled out of nothing.

It was time to get serious.

I bought a brand new glove, my first pair of cleats, my first cup, and my first non-wood bat. The glove has held up well over the years (despite the invisible hole responsible for all of my errors). The lack of contact of ball into glove is probably the reason why it has lasted so long. As far as the bat, it turned out to be an absolute lemon – taking me from suck to super suck.

Not that it would have really mattered which bat I used; the results would have more than likely been the same. But others attested to the fact that my bat sucked, proving I was even a loser at selecting a bat. Once I switched bats, I actually turned out to be a fairly consistent hitter – certainly, not in terms of power numbers, but I could at least get on base with a steady stream of singles. My above average speed certainly helped. My deficiency as a player was on the defensive side of things. I lacked the ability to judge fly balls. Hence why I was a natural fit for right field, where the balls were least likely to go – unless it was a left-handed hitter … or a crafty right-handed one who knew how to hit the opposite way once they realized I was a weak link (it usually didn’t take much time). Whenever a ball was hit my way, I would either: overrun it, or stop short of it, watching the ball drop right in front of me – or, more often than not, far away from me. My inability to judge even the most routine fly ball renders my decent speed completely useless.

Another hindrance to my speed is the fact that I’m still afraid of the ball … even after all of these years. This includes running out a grounder to first base. More often than not, I duck and/or throw my arms over my head as I approach first base, thus slowing down and thereby resulting in outs that should have been hits – once again, neutralizing my speed.

As far as my team itself, it was doomed from the start. Each week, I scrambled to find enough players to field a team – especially female ones. The females that were on my team had little to no interest in playing softball. And I didn’t exactly assemble a Murder’s Row of men. Suffice to say, I guided my team to three straight, pitiful losing seasons. And thanks to my Gold Glove talent, even my Grandmother paid an unfortunate price. It was bad enough my family came to watch such an awful mockery of the game. Making it worse was when the third baseman threw a ball to me, while I was stationed at first base during pre-game warm-ups. In usual fashion, the ball got past me, only to ricochet directly into my Grandma’s leg. What began as a major bruise later required minor surgery.

Three years later, I waved the white flag on my softball experiment, deservingly putting it – and myself – out of its collective misery.

Despite my failings on the field, I could always hang my hat on my one true position – being a mere spectator. Even my dad eventually came around to the fact that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps of being an anti-sports fan. In 1993, he finally acknowledged this fact by taking his me to the holiest of holy days for a baseball fan: Opening Day in Detroit – an unofficial holiday. I remember that day so vividly – the rusted girders of the ballpark giving way to the vivid shades of green grass, the smell of hot dogs, mustard, and spilled beer, the sounds the crowd, the crack of the bat, the ball snapping into gloves, and a glimpse of my first boobies (a drunken fan seated behind us). It has become one of those memories that feels as immediate now as it did then – no matter how much time continues to pass by.

Every game I have gone to since – in some form or another – takes me back to that one, magical day.

We sat in the massive sun and booze-soaked centerfield bleacher section at old Tiger Stadium, which had originally opened in 1912 on the same day the Titanic sunk.

Any true Tigers fan knows that the bleachers – despite their distance from most of the action – were the place to be. As for the game itself, the Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics 20-4 and went on to have their only winning season in an almost a 20-year span (a short-lived success … the losing resumed the following year … and several years after that).

I’ll always remember Opening Days with my dad. The tradition lasted about six or seven years and I have gone to several other Opening Days since, but none of them have matched – nor, ever will – the memory of the first one. Coming in at a close second was the strike-shortened season of 1994 that wiped out the World Series, irate fans protested by littering the field with magnet schedules – most of which were flung from the bleacher section where we sat.

Another vivid baseball memory involved my entire family and took place at historic Fenway Park, which, like the now long-gone Tiger Stadium, opened its doors in 1912. The pitching match-up pitted two aces: Roger Clemens vs. Scott Erickson. There was just one problem: the game never happened. It was rained out. Despite the torrential downpour, I remained determined that the game would be played eventually, forcing my family to endure sitting in the pouring rain for over three hours before the game was finally called. I can still see the falling rain through the hazy lights of the hallowed ballpark. Seared into my memory more than any actual game would have been.

Though I could at least say that I had been inside hollowed Fenway, it just wasn’t the same as actually watching a game played there.

It wouldn’t be until June 2017 that I would finally enter the hallowed ballpark, in celebration of my 40th birthday. Also joining us at Fenway: my Detroit Tigers – at the tail end of a decade of dominance and on the heels of a re-build.

I was also fortunate enough to be at the last game at Tiger Stadium, as well as the first game at Comerica Park the following April. In many ways, the transition between the two stadiums represented, in my mind, the divide between childhood and adulthood. My past and future. And the promise of better days ahead.

I remember that last game so vividly. September 27, 1999. I attended with both my parents – the only game I remember going to with both of them. Though the team was enduring yet another losing season, the magical atmosphere was worthy of the World Series. A fitting end to the beloved, nearly century-old beloved ballpark, Sadly, like so many other structures in Detroit, the stadium would be left to rot.

The people I have attended games with over the years serve as a sort of timeline –  or snapshot – of my social life at the time. Friends and relationships have come and gone, just like the players on the team, or each passing season. One of the joys of the game is the social dimension that the sport provides – more so than other, far more fast-paced sports like football, basketball, or hockey, which demands constant attention. Baseball moves at a leisurely pace, allowing for conversation with friends and family in a way that the other sports simply can’t provide. At times – especially during losing seasons, or the doldrums of any long season, for that matter – the social aspect of the game easily trumps the competitive aspect. In essence, the various ebbs and flows of the sport become almost like a marker of one’s life. Intertwined with our memories are the players and highlights of the game over the years. They are the timeline to our lives.

Despite all of life’s changes, baseball has remained a constant, steady pulse in my life. The game remained constant. And sadly, so did the losing.

At times – especially during losing seasons, or the doldrums of any long season, for that matter – the social aspect of the game easily trumps the competitive aspect. In essence, the various ebbs and flows of the sport become almost like a marker of one’s life. Intertwined with our memories are the players and highlights of the game over the years.

It is only fitting that I would have a chance encounter with a Tigers Hall of Fame legend while waiting at the gate before my fateful flight to L.A. in pursuit of my Hollywood dream, that ultimately led to my memoir Love & Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine.

While waiting at the gate, I spotted an elderly, white-haired man sitting in front of me that struck an uncanny resemblance to a certain Hall of Fame manager. I couldn’t believe my own eyes, so I approached the gate attendant:

“Is that Sparky Anderson?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” the attendant replied with a smile. I debated whether I should leave the old man alone, but couldn’t resist. I approached, struggling to keep my nerves under control.

“Mr. Anderson?”

“Yes?” he replied.

I offered my hand. He shook it.

“I am so happy to meet you. I am a big fan,” I said, before congratulating him on his recent induction into the Hall of Fame.

I thought for sure that he would brush me off, but instead we chatted for a few minutes about the Tigers and their upcoming season. I then offered him my pen and steno pad, which he signed on the first page: “To Bob. Thanks for being a great baseball fan. Sparky Anderson.”

I thanked him, before clumsily returning to my seat, where I waited to board. The next and last time I saw him, I was heading down the aisle in search of my seat. He was sitting in first class, already asleep.

Following came several more years of losing – including the rock bottom season in 2003, when the Tigers fell short of setting the all-time loss record by one game (53-119).

And then came 2006. Following years of torture, my beloved Tigers finally turned things around. They not only had their first winning season since 1993, but they somehow put together a dream season that catapulted them all the way to the World Series, where they proceeded to lose in six games. They have been competitive ever since. The bandwagon of which I was once the lone passenger of had begun to overflow.

Incidentally, the Tigers’ turnaround mirrors my own professional and personal turnaround in life in a myriad of ways. Just as the Tigers are no longer losers, I am no longer bullied, nor teased for being such a diehard fan, as I was during all the losing. My loyalty paid off and I am better equipped to handle whatever adversity both the team – and myself – might face down the road.

I often write while a Tigers game plays in the background, finding my own ebbs and flows running concurrently along with the game itself. And much like the Tigers, year after year passed with my writing career seemingly going nowhere. Sure, there may been the occasional winning streak amongst the losing, poking through the gray clouds of my writing life. But it was always fleeting.

Suddenly, once the Tigers figured out how to win, somehow, so did I, as a steady stream of publishing followed. But like the Tigers, I am still searching in vain for the grand prize.

But alas, as Robert Frost once said, “Nothing gold can stay.” Following a decade of dominance, the team is in deep re-building mode. The circle of life. But I remain a loyal fan.

The ebb and flow of both the game and life were further echoed in the dissolution of my first marriage, which paved the way for a new one, ultimately leading to the unexpected discovery that I was going to be father.

And in perfect synchronization, following years of losing in all its various forms, my one true moment of athletic glory finally arrived.

My daughter was due in late August, coinciding with the end of what had turned out to be a fantastic, turn-around season for my work’s recreational softball team.

We ended the season tied for first, which meant having to play a one-game play-off for the championship on a chilly, rain-soaked late summer night. The game was a doozy, going back and forth all game long. Of course, I was conditioned to accept that a loss was always lurking around the corner. I was especially thinking this as I headed to the plate with the bases loaded in our final at-bat, down by one with two outs. After years of folding under pressure, there was no greater choke opportunity than that very moment. The fate of our entire season was now entirely up to me. And if past history was any indication, I was setting my team up to lose, and lose big.

Moments certainly don’t get more pressurized than that. To compound matters, I wasn’t having my best game at the plate to begin with, and I wasn’t expecting it to change now.

But as I stood at the plate, I felt something shift within me. Perhaps it was seeing a glimpse of the new life that awaited me as a father. Perhaps I had simply willed myself to refuse to lose anymore. Perhaps it was all the feel-good sports movies I’d watched over the years. Whatever it was, I suddenly had the clarity I’d heard about, but never before experienced in sports.

The fear was gone.

And I knew exactly what I had to do.

Nothing was going to stop me.

I stepped into the pitch and swung, sending the ball sailing to right-center. The fielders who had come up shallow now had to sprint toward the backfield. The ball continued sailing through the night sky before arcing down and slamming down at the base of the fence. I had never come close to hitting a ball like this. I should point out that in this particular league, balls hit over the fence constitute outs. It would have been my luck to knock one out of the park and lose. But fate was on my side for once. And just like that, it was game over. We were champions.

Once upon a time, I was picked last in gym class.

And now, I was a champion.

If only my bullies could have seen me now. Then again, at that point, I could give two shits what they thought.

That was the real victory.

And even if my big hit didn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, I will never forget the feeling on that cold, wet summer night. In that singular moment, it meant everything.

That same night, just hours after our thrilling victory, came another one. I became a father. And I’ve been winning ever since. Professionally, the game-winning hit, combined with the birth of my daughter, mirrored my arrival as a published writer.

In fact, her birth coincided with a 12-game winning streak late in the season that propelled the Tigers into the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 2006. She’s been their good luck charm ever since. A year later, they were back in the World Series (only to lose again).

From the time she was born, my daughter has been immersed in Tigers baseball: from the pink pennant that was hung in her room before she was even born, to various onesies and other clothing items and toys bearing the old English ‘D”, it was no surprise that she quickly learned to associate that logo with daddy. She literally called it “Daddy” for the first two years of her life. She got a much earlier jump on the game than her father. In fact, she was indoctrinated with Tigers baseball before she was baptized into the Catholic faith that defines me nearly as much as my faith in the game of baseball. In fact, after seeing me play softball, she believed I played for the Tigers (she also believed that I am Grover from Sesame Street). If only I could have kept both of these illusions alive in her mind forever.

The following season, just following her first birthday, I took her to her first game. My legacy of baseball fandom was officially moving on to the next generation. Taking my child to a baseball game was a moment I had dreamt of for years. And now, the time had finally come. My parents were there, as well, making everything so very “circle of life.” The Tigers lost, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was, my little girl was experiencing her first baseball game – one of which I’m certain will be many. Of course, being only one-year-old meant she had no concept of what was happening on the field. However, I was strongly encouraged by the fact that she sat perfectly patient for nearly the entire game. Two years later, my son was born.  I look forward to all the games I will be taking them to in the future. I look forward to taking them to their first Opening Day. I am so grateful that I will have permanent baseball companions. I think of all players yet to don the old English D – and wonder who the future superstar my children will look up to.

Recently, my son played in his first t-ball game. As I watched him stationed at third base, kicking up gravel, I swelled with a deep pride that only a parent could feel. I couldn’t help but imagine him one day taking the field as a major leaguer. And I laughed when he stopped running just short of home plate to dig in the dirt.

Despite all the changes my life has faced, the one constant has been my love for baseball. That is one of the few things I know will never change. Sure, in any relationship, there are always going to be ups and downs. The relationships that thrive are the ones that realize that even when the ups are outnumbered, they are still far worth it. In fact, getting through the downs make the ups so much sweeter. Baseball is no different, which is why in the baseball diamond of life, I will always bring my mitt.

 

The Chinese Restaurant

Todd had always wanted to eat at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Ever since the first saw A Christmas Story when he was kid.

He just never thought that when the time came, he would be doing so alone.

But not by choice, but rather by court mandate.

He had his kids for Thanksgiving, at least. And he would have them for Christmas next year. Alternating holidays was the best solution for all involved.

The new normal.

Yet, he never felt further from normal. His precious time with the kids was forever cut in half. No amount of therapy could never help him reconcile with this fact. Perhaps if he wanted the divorce to begin with, things would have been different. Perhaps if she gave marriage a counseling a try, they could have reconciled. And found their way back to one another.

Sure, their marriage had serious flaws.

Whose doesn’t?

But he was willing to work through it. And she wasn’t.

She admittedly cashed out years ago. Playing make believe ever since.

And then came along her “soul mate”.

Despite this, he was still willing to do whatever it took to keep the family together, even if they essentially had separate lives. He still loved her, after all. And if she didn’t love him, then he just wished she would stay together for the kids at the very least.

And if she needed to keep her new lover on the side, then so be it. He could look past that. He just couldn’t bear the fact that his time with the kids would be cut in half.

But her mind was made up. There was no turning back.

Now that the initial storm had passed, his singular goal to appreciate every moment he had with his kids, rather than dwelling on the time he didn’t have.

At the onset of his divorce, it was the time away from his children that hurt the most. When he was alone with his thoughts. And memories. And the memories that would now never get made. Like a family trip to Disney World that would never happen, which he had imagined before his daughter was born seven years prior.

The silver lining was that things were finally getting better, following months of therapy. And finding more happiness than not. However, with their the one-year anniversary of their divorce coming up and the holiday season upon them, he was beginning to slide back into the pit of despair. He wanted nothing more than for the holidays to be over. For the first time in his life, he had absolutely no holiday cheer. Usually, he was the one who brought an abundance of holiday cheer, where his wife generally had none.

As though the divorce wasn’t enough, he recently lost his automotive marketing job – a position he held for over a decade. Though he saw the writing on the wall, it was still a tough pill to swallow – especially in the context of everything else he went through this past year.

Perhaps if he lost his job before the divorced, he would have had a moderately stable home life to come home to each night. But instead, he had…nothing.

This week was particularly tough because of Christmas. Even if he had his kids, not having his wife would have been a tough pill to swallow. But as it was, he never felt more lonely.

At least he would have them on New Year’s Eve. But of course, they would be in bed before midnight, which meant he would be lonely. Then again, his wife as always in bed well before midnight anyway.

But first, he had to get through Christmas. And the light at the end of the tunnel was Chinese food.

Before heading out, he debated what would be more depressing – staying home alone. Or, going out alone. He was realized he was never more depressed than he was when he was inside his dingy, still unfurnished apartment, staring at his two-foot tall fake Christmas tree he bought on clearance at Michael’s with a 40% off coupon.

After watching one and half viewings of the A Christmas Story marathon on TBS, he headed out into a light snowfall to Chin’s.

Holidays and divorced aside, he had been craving Chinese food for quite a while now. A gift to himself. Though he gave his ex a gift, she did not return the favor to him. Nor, was he expecting her to. In hindsight, he shouldn’t have, either. Because it pissed her off.

He should have known better.

“What makes you think I would want a gift from you?” was her response.

He wanted to say “because I still care about you very much and you’re the mother of my children.” But knew that would piss her off anymore.

He wanted his kids to see that there was mutual love and respect between their parents, even though they were no longer living together. But instead, they got more of the same they were getting during the last couple years of their marriage. In fact, it was their constant bickering that finally made him realize that staying together for the kids was perhaps not in their best interest. It broke his heart to hear his kids begging – sometimes crying – for them to stop arguing.

“Mommy, please don’t get into an awwwgument with daddy,” their son would often say. Though hearing this broke his heart, it pissed her off. They both knew something had to be done. His solution was marriage counseling. She went straight for the kill.

As much as he wanted to stop living in the past, he knew it was impossible when

it sent its demons to live in the present. So, he was stuck in a no man’s land, were going forward was proving to be just as difficult as living the past.

As he pulled into the parking lot, dusted with freshly fallen snow, he noticed that there were only two other cars. Probably not a good sign, but aside from the shitty weather, it was past prime business hours. He wondered if it were even open.

Magic China’s was a classic hole in the wall that somehow stayed in business, despite an always empty parking lot beneath the faux-Chinese architecture, which certainly had a certain charm, as did the flashing “COCKTAILS” light beneath the name.

Decals on the window mysteriously and incompletely proclaimed:  CHINESE FOOD &

As he approached, he noticed a handwritten sign in the window that simply read:

“WE OPEN FOR HOLIDAYS.”

Despite the obvious grammatical error, he was impressed with the unintended, edgy bravado the sign exuded.

He entered. There was not another customer in sight. A Chinese woman in her late 60’s greeted him with sad eyes.

“Hello. Merry Christmas!” she said with a thick accent right out of A Christmas Story.

“Merry Christmas,” Todd replied back.

“Sitdownorcarryout?”

He had no idea what the fuck she was saying.

“Sit down or carry out,” she said, giving her enunciation every effort.

“Sit down, please.”

“Just one?” she said with what he imagined to be empathy.

“Just one,” he said, bowing his head in shame, as a mournful Muzak version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played through a tinny speaker.

She grabbed a tattered, food-stained menu and led him to a table in a back corner – the loneliest table for the loneliest man in the loneliest Chinese restaurant on the planet.

“This okay?” she asked.

“Sure,” he said.

He took a look around at his surroundings. Paintings of ancient Chinese life were scattered about, along with several kitschy knick-knacks made in China. But only to be sold in America.

Other than the hostess, nobody else was in sight. As alone as he was, he felt an oddly unexpected peace. Moments later, a waitress with the body of a 20-year-old, but the face of someone well over twice that age, appeared through a door opposite the kitchen. She appeared unkempt, as though she had just woken up from a long nap. The red marks on one side of her face backed this theory.

“Hello! Merry Christmas! Something to drink?”

“Merry Christmas! Can I have a Mai-Tai? And a water?”

“Mai-Tai? Yes. You want two?”

“At the same time?”

“Yes. I make you two if you want.”

“Why not?” he said after a brief hesitation. He had no memory of ever being asked if he wanted to drinks at once. In fact, he was surprised this wasn’t asked more often. I mean, it’s common practice to ask if you want to start a tab. So why not just start out with two drinks?

“Okay. I get drinks. Then I take order, okay?”

“Actually, I already know what I want.”

He always knew what he wanted when he got Chinese. Ever since he a little boy. In fact, it was one of the more consistent things in his life.

“Okay, fine, then you order now,” the waitress said, slightly irked.

“I’ll have Sweet and Sour Chicken. Does that come with an egg roll?”

“No egg rolls. Spring rolls.”

“It comes with a spring roll?”

“No. Must order separate. You want spring roll?”

“Sure.”

“Would you like two?”

PAY THIS OFF LATER WITH TWO MASSAGESRS

“One is fine.”

“Okay, one. Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” he said.

“White rice? Or brown?”

“White.”

“Both?”

“Both types of rice?”
“Yes.”

“No, I mean are you offering me to types of rice at the same time?”
“You want?”
“No. Just white. Just white rice.”

“Okay, I get for you.”

“Where’s the restroom, by the way?” he asked the waitress, who had begun folding silverware into napkins.

“Down hall. To left. You need help?”

“In the bathroom?”

“To bathroom. You need help I show you.”

“Thanks, but I think I can find it.”

“Okay, okay. You go.”

He got up and headed toward the bathroom, decorated with the worst art he had seen in his life. All cats and dogs, but as though three-year old Picasso decided to enter his most experimental phase at the age of three. He wasn’t sure if he should laugh, or be frightened.

As he proceeded to piss, he heard what sounded like light, successive slaps coming through a vent and what he thought were moans.

What the fuck?

He found another odd thing that he tried to talk his brain out of misinterpreting: a hole in the wall at waist level, about three inches wide. A perfect circle in all its glory. And if it wasn’t what he thought it was, then what else could it have been? Nothing came to mind.

When he came back to his seat, his spring roll and two Mai Tais were waiting. Though the drink looked perfect, it was the smallest, most shriveled up spring roll he had ever seen. And he had seen his share.

He got to work on his first Mai Tai, sucking it down more quickly than he was accustomed to. He felt an instant buzz – or, was it just a sugar high? – then took a few bites of his spring roll.  Despite its outward appearance, it wasn’t half bad. But there was no sauce, but his waitress was nowhere to be found. So he got to work on the second drink.

Three minutes passed, so he decided to take matters into his own hands and peek his head into the kitchen. But nobody was in there.

“Help you?” a voice said behind him, causing him to leap in fear.

“Oh, so sorry. I scare you?”

“Oh, it’s okay. Can I get some plum sauce please?” he asked.

“Soy sauce,” the waitress asked.

“No. Plum sauce. Plum,” he said with added emphasis.

“Plum sauce?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Two plum sauce.”

“Two?” he asked.

“Yes, two,” she said, eagerly nodding.

“Okay, two’s good.”

The waitress headed toward the kitchen, where what sounded an argument ensued with an unspecified male that he did not notice when he poked his head in there a minute ago. It was entirely in Chinese, but one thing was clear: the waitress was winning. And winning by a mile. And that was before she started wailing on him with his fists.

Todd imagined the poor man cowering in a ball in a corner, stirring spatula still in hand. Though he couldn’t understand a word that was being said, he could hear the man begging for mercy.

Moments later, she returned, carrying a small tray featuring two plum sauces.

“Here you go. Plum sauce, yum,” she said with a smile, with no indication whether or not she realized that the shouting match that had just ensued was perhaps overheard by her one and only customer.

“You enjoy!”

“Thank you.”

“Anything else? More Mai-Tai?,” the waitress asked, despite the fact that he still had an almost full glass remaining.

“No thanks. I’m fine for now.”

“Okay, very good. I be back with your food soon.”

Todd proceeded to eat his spring roll. With each bite, felt pangs of loneliness in his heart. There was nothing he wanted more in this moment than to be with his family again. He would take her back in a heartbeat and it pained him to know it would never happen. If there was one thing he learned repeatedly throughout life, wanting and getting rarely work in tandem. He learned this at an early age when he was pursuing his now abandoned Hollywood dream.

Halfway through his second Mai-Tai, the waitress brought his entrée.

“Thank you,” Todd said.

“Everything look okay?” she asked.

“Looks great.”

“You eat. I be back.”

And then she disappeared, leaving Todd alone in the absolute silence of his deafening solitude.

But seconds later, he heard the unrecognizable melody of sexual moaning (though, he couldn’t completely rule out somebody working out).

He couldn’t detect where it was coming from. Through the wall? Like in the kitchen maybe? Was there perhaps an adjacent apartment or something? Or was it coming through the flooring? From the basement?

He continued eating his meal in unison with the moans, which intensified, then finally came to a satisfying conclusion.

When he finished his meal, the waitress brought him two fortune cookies along with his check.

“You like something else,” the waitress asked.

“Nope, I’m fine. Thank you.”

“You like message before you go bye?”

“I’m sorry,” he asked.

“Message.”

“Message?”

“Massage,” she clarified, using hand motions that erased all doubt and confusion.

“Massage?” he asked just to be clear.

“Yes, yes. Massage. You like massage, yes?”

“Umm…”

“Christmas special. In basement. I show you.”

“Umm, I think I’m good. But thank you.”

“You think more about it. I be right back, okay.”

He nodded.

What the fuck!

He had a friend who frequented these kind of places and told him all about it. And all the “amazing specials” that a few extra bucks could get you. “A good ol’ fashioned rub and tug on the ol’ eggroll!” as his friend put it.

He would be lying if he didn’t say he was intrigued. After all, it had been awhile since he felt the touch of another human being on his body. But would he settle for this?

            He stared at his fortune cookies, both of which were partially smashed. He opened the first one. Removed the fortune. And found himself staring at a blank slip.

He turned it around. Also, blank.

A fucking empty fortune.

He opened the second cookie. There wasn’t even a fortune slip in it.

He considered asking for another one.

Had to be a sign, right? To start anew on a blank canvas.

He gently tucked the blank strip into his pocket and realized exactly what he had to do. But then more racket from the kitchen, as another argument broke out. This time, there was a third participant. Seconds later, the sound of various pots and kitchen utensils were tossed around the kitchen, followed by the sound of broken glass. That seemed to end the argument – at least temporarily and the only sound that remained was the meditation music, fused with the thumping techno coming from what sounded presumably from a basement.

Seconds later, his waitress re-appeared – once again with a smile as though nothing happened at all. He waved her over.

He noticed a splash of blood on her arm. With no sign of visible injury on her, was it even her blood? And if that were the case, then whose blood was it? Did he even want to find out?

“How I help you?” she asked.

“So, regarding that massage…I think I’m interested. How does it work?”

“Oh, you want? $15 for 15 minutes. $30 for 30. $55 for hour.”

“I’ll do the half hour.”

“Okay, you pay for dinner and massage after. I take you down. Come with me.”

Todd followed her toward the kitchen until they reached a dark hallway, which revealed a door that lead to downstairs to a great unknown.

Next thing he knew, he was being led to the basement, which consisted of a hallway, where half a dozen small rooms were blocked off with red, tattered plastic curtains

She led him into one of them, which consisted of a massage table draped with a white towel. In a corner stood a small table filled with several bottles of generic lotions. And one bottle of Mr. Bubbles.

“You get undressed. I be right back.”

She disappeared. And his first thought was to get the fuck out of there

He still could not believe this was happening. In his defense, it was by accident. But he still had the choice to stay or go. Yet, here he was.

Wat did he have to lose? Well, for starters, he couldn’t help but imagine the police busting in at any moment. This had to be illegal, right?

Fuck it.

He began getting undressed.

He then stood there, naked, staring at the ample supply of lotion.

She entered, startling him once again. “Oh, sorry. I scare you two times. Lie down here,” she said, tapping the table. “On tummy.”

He awkwardly moved toward the table, with his hand still covering his shriveled junk, then climbed on top and lay down, struggling to find a comfortable position for his head.

“You relax. And watch.”

And just like, she began to undress, revealing tattered granny panties and bra that looked as though it somehow traveled from 1955.

“You like what you see?” she asked.

“Of course!”

“Beautiful.”

“Thank you. You so handsome.”

“Thank you.”

As attractive as her body was – especially when taking into account her age – all she could about was the fact that just minutes before, she was his waitress. Which made him feel a little bit sick to his stomach for sanitary reasons.

“Okay, I massage now. You like soft, medium, or hard?”

“Medium, I guess?”

“Okay. Good. I can’t do hard. Hurt shoulder.”

She began to massage his back and shoulders, before working her way up and down his legs. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, aside from the fact that she was in her lingerie.

As she massaged his arms, she pulled on his fingers, making a loud snap. It hurt.

“Oh, sorry. I hurt you?”

“I’m fine.”

She then began to rub his scalp. It felt good. At first. But she kept on rubbing incessantly to the point where it felt like it was never going to stop. And then it began to burn. Just when he was going to ask her stop, she worked her way down his neck, his back, and then totally out of the blue, she began playing his butt cheeks like a set of bongos. Much like his head, this went on longer than it should have and his ass was getting sore from repetitive tapping, which finally eased into light taps, and then soothing tickles. Beneath him was the makings of a raging boner.

She then moved her finger lightly around the circumference of both ass cheeks in a figure eight, skirting the edge of his crack, before working toward the interior of his cheeks and eventually passing through his crack, resting for a moment over his butt hole, before stopping just short of his balls.

He tried with all his might not to thrust himself into the table, thinking it would be too weird. There was no way she couldn’t tell he was turned on.

Though he knew it was a matter of time before he had a sexual encounter with another woman post-divorce, he had no idea it would be anything like this. She continued lightly caressing his ass, spiraling toward his asshole, which she began to massage. It felt so fucking good. He never experienced any sort of ass play before. Nor, had he really ever desired it. Now he realized he was missing out!

And then like a knife through butter, a well-lotioned finger was suddenly thrust up his ass, practically making him cum right that very instant.

“Peek-a-boo!” she said, giggling.

This time, he couldn’t help but thrust himself into the table. In fact, she seemed to be encouraging it by applying downward force.

“You like, yes?”

He nodded in ecstasy.

“Flip ova,” she said.

He did, sheepishly covering his full erection.

She forcibly removed his hands.

“Oh, you got nice one.”

She lightly tickled it, causing it to convulse. This was by far the most erotic experience of his life. He still couldn’t believe it was happening to him. He had seen porn like this, but he never thought it would escape from the realm of fantasy.

“You want two?”

“I’m sorry? Two?”

“Two for price of one?”

“Two…?”

“Two girls?”

“Oh. Sure!”

She screamed out something in Chinese – presumably a name. Seconds later, another woman entered. She as at least 60. And at least 200 pounds. But there was nothing he could do about it now.

He watched as she undressed – underwear and all. Both women began to massage his entire body, stopping short of his throbbing penis. He was certain he would cum without contact.

“You want me make penis go boom?” his waitress asked.

“Yes, please,” assuming she meant jerking him off.

She squired some lotion into her hand, then got to work on stroking his cock, while the other woman continue massing his body. He came in less than 30 seconds.

“Ohhhh! So fast!”

“Sorry,” he said, embarrassed at the mess he made.

“It okay. I make you feel good?”
“Yes. Real good.”

The second woman began to clean him off with a towel.

“Come with me…” the waitress said.

She lead him by the hand to another room that had a shallow tub.

“Lie down. I give you bath.”

Though content, he was curious.

“Okay.”

She drew the water and waited for it to get warm.

“Lie down.”

He entered, wondering how many other naked men had lay in this same spot and further wondering how often it was bleached. Some things are better not to think about.

She proceeded to go give him a sponge bath. And it felt so fucking good, though he also felt oddly like a little child.

When she was done, she screamed out for the other woman again.

She entered as though right on cue with a towel, then proceeded to dry him off like a toddler fresh out of a bath.

The waitress lead him back into the first room.

“Okay, get dressed.”

She let him be and he got dressed, feeling totally refreshed and rejuenvenated. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he felt this calm and relaxed. Yet, he couldn’t believe it was real. It felt more like a wet dream.

When he was dressed, he headed out, where the waitress greets him.

“If you like, please tip.”

He had no idea how much he should tip, so he handed her a $20. She appeared please, but he hoped he wasn’t lowballing her.

“You pay bill at register upstairs, okay?”

“Thank you.”

She gave him a hug, which honestly felt better than anything else she had already done to him. He then headed upstairs, paid his bill, and headed back out into the snowy night.

Though far from the best Christmas of his life, it was certainly one of the most memorable. And at least in a season surrounded by sadness, he would have a happy ending for once.

In fact, he had a feeling he would be back again soon.

But there would never be a next time. A few weeks later, Magic Chin’s was closed for good. A sign in the window read:

“Closed. Thank you for business.”

As he knew all too well, not everything had a happy ending. But he was getting better at accepting this as fact.