Tag Archives: hanging out

It’s playoffs

I was hanging out at my friend Bill’s place last weekend, we were sitting on the couch drinking some beers and watching a baseball game. It had been like half an hour already, and I was getting pretty bored. We hadn’t said anything to each other in a while, we were just kind of sitting there, I was on my phone, but not doing anything, just swiping from app to app, hoping that something interesting would pop up on the screen. Once that got to be unbearable, I tried breaking the silence.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles

“Since when do you watch baseball?” I asked him.

“I don’t really follow it, but it’s playoffs,” he said.

“Yeah?” I was trying to say, so? Really? But I didn’t want to jump straight to being a jerk. But Bill didn’t get what I was going for, and so he just responded back, “Yep.”

And so we kept sitting there, watching this baseball game. For a while I actually tried to follow along, but it was like reading a textbook. A really big, old, dusty, dry, boring textbook, and the cover has all of this gross film all over it, I’m guessing from years of disuse, and when I open it, I find out that it’s in Finnish. It’s like, back to baseball, I had no foundational knowledge of what was going on, I wasn’t attached to either of the teams playing, so it’s not like I could at least get behind any of that false hometown pride enthusiasm. Maybe ten minutes later, I started prodding Bill again.

“So which team are you rooting for?” I asked him.

“Baltimore,” he told me.

“Oh yeah? Baltimore? Why?”

“What do you mean?” he took his eyes off the screen and gave me a sideways look.

“What do I mean? Why did you pick Baltimore? Why not the other team?”

And there was a pause of maybe a second or two, and then he said, “I don’t know, I just like Baltimore.” Then there was another pause, then he added, “And one of my roommates from college was from Baltimore.” He threw that in there, like clearly he’d been thinking of it, ever since I asked him, why was he rooting for Baltimore? And even though it seemed clearly pretty forced, at least from my end, Bill sounded satisfied that at least he had something. At first he said he didn’t know, but then he took it back, because he did know, and apparently it had something to do with an old roommate.

“I don’t know,” I told him. “I’m not really convinced.”

“What aren’t you convinced of?”

“I mean, I’m convinced that you’re rooting for Baltimore. I mean, you said it. I guess I shouldn’t have said convinced. That doesn’t really need much convincing. I guess I should have said that I don’t get it.”

“Well,” Bill said, he wasn’t looking like he was annoyed, and I get that, I would have been totally annoyed if Bill were over my house and I was watching something that he didn’t get, and he kept asking me questions about why I was watching what I was watching, “I don’t understand what’s to get.”

“It’s just that,” even knowing that I was on the verge of needling, I couldn’t stop myself, “you say you’re not into baseball, fine, your old roommate is from Baltimore, that’s great, I just don’t get the appeal of sitting in front of a game that you’re obviously not interested in, largely because of … because of what? Because of a third-hand connection to the city of Baltimore?”

Now he looked like he was getting annoyed. And as soon as I saw that annoyed look on his face, I got a little pissed off at myself. Because I knew it was coming. If I kept questioning him, of course he was going to get even more annoyed. But I kept doing it anyway. It was like I couldn’t help myself. Bill didn’t say anything, so I tried to ease off the gas a little, maybe take back some of what I had said.

“I’m just saying,” I said, “you’re not into baseball, right?”

“Right,” he was still annoyed, “but it’s playoffs, man.”

“And what does that have to do with anything?” I asked, maybe a little more confrontational than I’d have liked.

“It’s playoffs. It’s exciting.”

“Dude,” I said, “we’re sitting here on the couch in silence. I’m not excited, and I’ve seen you excited before, this isn’t it, OK, and this doesn’t feel exciting.”

“Whatever,” he turned back toward the TV, “what do you want to do?”

I said, “Well, do you still have your XBOX Live subscription?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “do you want to play?”

“After the game,” he said.


There were still like five innings left. And every time there was a commercial break, the TV station kept showing the same commercials advertising back-to-back reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond weekdays at seven. There was nothing to do on my phone. After an hour, I yawned and said that I was tired, that I was going to go home.

“All right man,” he said, “I’ll see you around.”

And then I got back to my house and it was even more boring that over at Bill’s. My XBOX was stolen like two years ago, and I’d never bothered to get a new one. And there wasn’t anything on TV. I kept flipping through the channels, just to see if this baseball game would ever end. But it was still on. It went into extra innings. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up sometime in the middle of the night with a huge pain in my neck.

I’ll give you two hundred dollars

Sometime last spring I was hanging out in the backyard with my friend Dennis. We weren’t really doing anything, just enjoying the weather, listening to music via this one giant speaker, something I’d found laying outside of some house down the block, I don’t know if it was part of like a bigger PA system or whatever, but I got this wire at RadioShack and hooked it up and, man, it was definitely louder than anything I owned before.


My iPod was on shuffle, but it was something like twelve, thirteen good songs in a row, one of those shuffles that had to have been as close to divine intervention as I’m ever going to get to experience in my life, and I’m not just talking about the quality of the songs, but the order that they were played in, the way they seemed to apply to just that moment, of us hanging outside, one of the first really warm days of the year.

I think it was halfway through “Release” by Pearl Jam, I was tossing this tennis ball up and down, leaning back in this rinky-dink IKEA wooden lawn chair, I had my head leaned to where my neck was perpendicular to the ground, staring straight up, I kept trying to throw the tennis ball as straight and as far up as I could, of course never really getting what I was going for, and so I was sort of leaning the chair this was and that way if and when my arm couldn’t reach the unintended angle at which the ball decided to fall.

The playlist, the moment, it all should have been enough for me, I could have just basked in my contentment for a little while longer, but twelve or thirteen songs is about as long as I can ever really remember being at peace for one continuous stretch of time, I blurted out to Dennis who was spinning an old football in his hands, I said, “Hey Dennis, I’ll give you two hundred dollars if you can throw that football right into that hole in the garage door.”

He was looking right in that direction, and so I didn’t have to really explain myself any further, but if it’s not just right there, you might be getting the wrong idea. It wasn’t a hole, not really. It was just the garage door, on the top there are all of these square panes, and one of them didn’t have any glass. I’m not sure how it got to be glassless, like I don’t remember any specific glass-breaking incident, and there weren’t any shards sticking out of the framing.

Who knows, that’s really not that important, besides giving you a clear visual here. There was a hole, I said something stupid not for any reason really, just to kind of hear my own voice, to break up the monotony of what had up until then been this moment of almost impossible springtime serenity.

And what does Dennis do? He doesn’t even get up, there’s no hesitation, he just cranked his arm back and let it fly. And of course, it went right through the hole, a perfect spiral, it sailed inside so effortlessly, like there wasn’t any resistance from the wood, nothing touched, I don’t think it’s possible for this ball to have fit through that hole any more perfect than it did right then.

Even Dennis was surprised. I guess he could have played it off a little cooler, acted like it was no big deal, but there was definitely a look of shock on his face. I mean, neither one of us, if we were talking really honestly, like remove all of the bravado and the bullshit jokes that we try to interlace into even the most regular of sentences and conversations, there’s no way you can predict something like that from happening.

One, and I already said this, but Dennis was still sitting down. It’s not like he took a minute to consider the challenge, not like he stood up and did any practice throwing motions or anything like that. No, he just kind of cocked his arm and threw this wildly lucky throw. And two, the garage had to have been at least thirty, thirty-five feet away. So even if he did get up and really make an effort to try to aim, there’s no way he would have made it in.

Except that he did make it in, and after what I can only guess was his thinking that I noticed his own realization that what happened was a fluke throw, he tried to capitalize on the financial side of the ball-in-the-hole, tried to skip past any, wows, or holy-shits, or did-you-see-thats. It’s like his arm went back, it threw the football into the garage, and then it effortlessly extended back toward my direction, the palm outturned and facing up, as if to say, pay up man, I’ll take that two hundred dollars right here.

So I cut him off, I told him, “Dennis, I’m not paying you two hundred dollars. That was a great throw, but I’m not giving you two hundred dollars. It’s just not going to happen.”

And in the same way Dennis kind of betrayed his own surprise with his shocked facial expression, he gave me a different look after I told him there wouldn’t be any money, like he might protest, put up some sort of a fight, like come on man, I made it in, you shouldn’t have said you’d give me two hundred bucks if you weren’t at least somewhat willing to pay up.

But I was ready for that, and I think Dennis knew that I was ready for it, I could say we didn’t shake on it, I could hear him complain and get pissed off, but I wasn’t going to give him any money. I don’t even think I had any cash on me. Maybe a twenty. Definitely not two hundred. So Dennis kind of went back to sitting in his chair, now that the football was gone, he was looking around at what else he could get his hands on without actually having to stand up.

I went back to the tennis ball just as that Pearl Jam song finished up. Next on the shuffle was “Wonderwall” by Oasis which, yeah, it’s a great song, but it didn’t really match up with the moment anymore, I quickly played through the whole song in my head and I realized that I didn’t feel like listening to the whole thing. I thought, well, thirteen songs, that was a pretty good shuffle, and I started clicking next on the iPod, next, next, next.