Sorry, I had to do it.
When we arrived in Fresno in 4th grade, my parents were convinced that this would (might?) be the last move. To that end, they tried to get me involved in sports to better involve me in the community and make friends and whatnot. This ended up trying to get me active in sports. For someone whose best friend was a stuffed animal, whose only memory of playing games outside at school involved being beaten up in some way (I’ll talk about that someday lol), and who’d probably never even seen sports before (I sure don’t remember ever having had), it was a challenging proposition to say the least.
First, we tried soccer, I think because we’d just missed Little League season. I played for the Slater Stingers or some such, because I think our team’s mascot was a feral bee with anger issues. I played fullback. If you’re unfamiliar with soccer (or what the Europeans like to call Football, or what the Latin Americans have condensed to just Futbol, or what the Australians call “What we let sissies and paraplegics play if they can’t handle rugby”) then know that a fullback is a defender. They stand between the enemy team and the goalie and (hopefully) make his job easier by blocking their approach to the goal.
The reason why I played fullback is because I had absolutely no soccer skills, and hated running. But I was a body, and I could accidentally trip attackers like nobody’s business. And since I looked so inept doing so, I never got carded, because it really looked like I was going for the ball, even though on the inside, my purpose in life was “destroy the enemy ball carrier at any cost.” It’s a wonder I didn’t get arrested, so badly did I try tripping these kids. Maybe refs at the 4th grade level don’t really look at the intent of the trip too hard. I don’t know.
But yeah. It was the running that got me there. God I hated running. Every day, the coach would make us run laps around Slater Elementary. Maybe it was around the entire school. I don’t know. Slater has an enormous play yard. You could fit three modern schools on Slater’s campus, and still have room for the preschool jungle gym. Coach would make us run, and I’d be in the back, sweating, lagging, essentially dying. Every single lap, I’d ask the coach a question: “How old do I have to be to have a heart attack?” “How old do I have to be to have an aneurysm?” “How old do I have to be to get leprosy?” Every lap, for an entire season, a different malady. “Heat stroke?” “Epilepsy?” “Tourrettes?” “Malaria?” I wasn’t sure, but I was certain he was torturing us just to meet his sadistic needs. If The Princess Bride had existed, I imagine that with each lap, he could have answered “I just ran 1 year out of your body. How do you feel?”
When the season was over, it was over for good. I never played soccer again. I regretted that decision more times that you will ever believe, because the first true love on my life (who I hung myself in front of once, but that’s another story too) loved soccer, and went on to play it quite vigorously in high school. Nevetheless, I couldn’t imagine having to do another year of this torturous stuff, and besides, I’d run out of fatal mishaps to ask my coach about. It was time to move on.
And move on we did, to Little League. My dad, intent on my success like no dad I’ve ever known (honestly, he’s the best dad I’ve ever had), became the coach of the Pirates. We had cool yellow and black uniforms, with white pants, and stirrups. Stirrups! How old-school was that? Well, this was like, 1977. I guess we weren’t “old school” then… Just “school.” Anyway, we had some GREAT players on our team. There was this guy, Louis, who was our first baseman. He’d hit the ball when it was pitched at him. He’d catch the ball when it was hit at him. He was great.
Me? Not so much.
I had trouble concentrating, sometimes, out there in left field. True story, I let the ball roll by me once, too zoned into my own little world to notice there was a baseball game going on very near to me. My father hit me in the head with a baseball once. Not because he wanted to, but during pop-up practice he hit it right to me, and I wasn’t paying any attention at all. But that’s ok. I was a great hitter. Right? RIGHT?
Yep. I was, I think, the worst hitter in the history of Fresno Little League. For the two years I played baseball, I had a lifetime batting average of 0.000. For those following along at home, that’s zero. I never once got a hit. Ever. The few times I made it on base, it was either because I got hit by a pitch, or walked. I mean, I tried. I tried. We’d take a bucket of balls out to Lions Park over behind Slater and practice hitting pitches. We’d get a roll of quarters and go to Blackbeards for a day — not riding the water slides, not playing miniature golf — just to blast balls in the batting cage. I could hit a ball. If I tried really hard, I could do it.
But come gametime, when that ball came, WHIFF. Sometimes it was just too fast, it seemed. Sometimes it was just too slippery, it seemed. Sometimes I was threatened by its presence and I closed my eyes and swung unseeingly. Whiff, whiff, whiff. You’re out!
I played baseball for two years. I gave it the old college try. At the end of the day, though, sports and I agreed to end our relationship amicably. Today, I am a mere voyeur, watching my Dodgers rise up from the obscurity they’ve been slumming in for so many years, and I am loving it. But I’m also at a crucial crossroads. My son is in 4th grade. He wants to try sports. He tried soccer and didn’t like it, because he didn’t like running.
Maybe my dad knew I wasn’t the athletic type. Maybe he just wanted to give me every chance to succeed; to do things he’d wanted to do but never had the chance to. Maybe in his quest to become my hero, he built in me the desire to be a hero for my kid too. I kinda feel like finding a bucket of balls and a roll of quarters, and letting the chips fall where they may.
Hey guys. I just wrote a pretty good article about the five most egregious things about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Check it out here.
By scientist, I mean me, of course. And following that logic, by discovered, I mean pulled completely out of my ass. But anyway, knowing what I know about our US Presidents (California public school graduate thankyouverymuch) I can safely determine EXACTLY which website would be the online hangout of choice for all of them. My favorites are below.
George Washington was our first President. It’s only fitting to give him the first successful social network, the one that really showed America (and American businesses) how the internet could be exploited to gather new customers and marketing eyeballs. George really wasn’t our best President. He was just the man everyone wanted, because no one really knew who else to pick. And that’s how millions upon millions of AOL customers started too. They got a disk in the mail, said “Why the hell not?” and pulled the trigger. FFS, my mother still has an AOL.com email. So here’s to our founding father, with the founding social network.
When the British invaded and sacked Washington DC, Thomas Jefferson and 300 Spartans bravely stood their ground at the Library of Congress and defeated king Xerxes of York in the War of 1812. Or something like that. Public school grad, remember? No, in truth, the British managed to trash DC pretty severely, including destroying the nation’s first book repository, the Library of Congress. Jefferson was an avid reader, and had one of the largest private collection of books in the Western Hemisphere. He sold as many as 3000 of his books to the US to help them rebuild their destroyed collection when the war was over. If he were alive today, you can bet your sweet Southfarthing Leaf he’d not only be a huge Amazon fan, he’d probably be on their Board of Directors. And really, really old.
Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. Excruciatingly few words. Take the exact opposite of any of today’s airbags, and you have Coolidge. A man once came up to Coolidge and said “I bet my wife I could make you say three words.” Coolidge stared at the man for just a second, then said “You lose.” Knowing this delight at short messages that are straight to the point it is no surprise that Coolidge’s social media of choice is Twitter. Twitter (in case you live under a rock) only allows 140 characters at any one time. And that includes the person’s name you might be talking to. Which explains why @JohnJacobJingleHeimerSchmidt doesn’t get a lot of follows.
I like George W. Bush. He’s not a great President, but he did his best to help unite the country and focus us on a common goal when tragedy struck during his administration. But you get the feeling he’s the kind of guy who had really hoped his entire presidency would have been opportunities to look at funny cat pictures. Cheezburger is one of the oldest and most prestigious collection of silly pictures. I think GW would have spent a long, long time here. It’s possible he actually did. He might be on Cheezburger RIGHT NOW.
I did not have sexual relations with that woman. These women? Hell yeah. I wrecked these ones.
The only scandal anyone will ever remember about Bill Clinton’s presidency is the one that got him in hot water with Congress the worstest: the sex scandal with Monica Lewinski. See, despite everyone knowing that Bill had been sleeping around with every girl who’d drop trou at the phrase “Hey, I’m the governor/President/King of America,” no one knew knew until Paula Tripp and Monica Lewinski stepped into the picture. Ok, maybe Bill didn’t use Adult Friend Finder when he was in office, but I bet that’s only because he didn’t need to. These days, who knows how much time he spends logged in there?
“We’ve hooked up every computer ever created on earth to your newsfeed, Mr. President.”
“Excellent. Now set up my Tivo so it will record it all.” “Um… All”" “All of it. Or I find a way to regulate the internet, too.”
Oh come on. You had to know I was headed here. Right? The TSA knew.
I don’t watch chick flicks. You can count on one hand the number of “chick dramas” I’ve watched voluntarily, and I shun Lifetime-style movies like Steel Magnolias or The Notebook like a zombie apocalypse. My movies have explosions, guns, ninjas, swords, sexy coeds, and Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme and/or Sylvester Stallone. Guy movies, you know? And yet… I STILL find myself crying at the movie theater every now and then. There are some film makers who really know how to tug a heart string, and there are some films that give you such an emotional suckerpunch at the end that all you can do is weep uncontrollably. Like a little girl. Like a man in touch with his feelings. No bones about it. If you want to see what it’s like to be attacked by onion-slicing ninjas in the middle of your living room, then watch these movies. But do it with care. Your buddies may never stop ribbing you — after their eyes dry up too, of course.
You know what? I am bawling already, just from looking these quotes up. These movies hit me deep. If you didn’t cry the first time you saw these films, then you have no soul. Begone from me, foul undead minion of Lolth! But if you haven’t, then I cannot recommend these movies strongly enough. There are just snippets of quotes below. I won’t give anything away. You deserve to be stomach-punched as hard as the rest of us were. In order from weakest to strongest response, here are the movies that make me cry like no Fremen ever did.
This is one of those films that catches you off-guard. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon follows a formula that I did not know when I first watched it: In Chinese cinema, no one ever gets a happy ending. If I’d known this, I would have been ready for the ending, wherein a witch and her disciple, an aging mercenary and monk who could have been lovers in a different world, and a sword of destiny all work themselves into a lather. But that’s not the ending. That’s the set up. See, we see people die there, and you know. You know people die in movies, especially movies with a lot of sword play and the like. But it’s later, when the young bandit prince is reunited with his lover, and after all he and she have been through, in this grueling ordeal of a movie, she utters one line to him that breaks him as utterly as a man could be broken. And what she does next breaks the heart of every person watching.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? Hidden onion-slicing ninja, I say.
Forrest Gump is the least exciting movie about football, Viet Nam, racism, deep sea fishing, and technology ever made. And yet it is compelling to watch a simpleton bumble through the events that shaped our American life. Through all the changes that occur in Forrest’s life, through all the history he personally witnesses, there is one constant in his life. And when that’s taken away from him, nothing — not witnessing the death of his mother, his best friend dying, his former boss coming to grips with double amputation — none of this prepares you for the heart-felt good bye he has to make then. Forrest Gump is an example of movie-making done right. You don’t even realize how attached you’ve grown to these stupid screen characters until one of them is hurt so badly, you can feel it yourself.
I went into Toy Story 3 knowing that this was being billed as the last Toy Story. Disney and Pixar had gone through their famous divorce, and this franchise was the child they’d fought over for custody. This movie gave us several opportunities to fear for the fates of the characters we’ve come to know and love over the course of three films, and there’s a scene near the end where the director threw out all the stops to convince us that this was the end, for everyone. The characters made their peace with each other, found solidarity, and waited for imminent, utter destruction. I mean, this is Disney? Oh whew! It was. They don’t die.
But something else happens. And you have to be a man for this one to hit you. You have to have owned things, and lost them to get that gut-punch the director was waiting to spring on you. The last scene of this movie… Is one of the best scenes ever. In any film.And I absofuckinglutely HATE Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter for writing it. If I ever meet them, I’m going to punch them in the face for making me cry so hard. Dude. Have you ever cried so hard in a movie you wished you could go back to 8th grade and play with that Luke Skywalker and Yoda action figure set you had when you were 12?
You will. You will.
Field of Dreams is not the kind of movie I would normally watch. It’s a silly magical realism film where a man hears a strange voice in his head, builds a baseball field in his yard, and dead people come to play baseball in it. Ok, so maybe it is the kind of film I’d watch. And that’s how Field of Dreams hooks you. The premise is so preposterously silly that you start watching it just to see what all the fuss is about.
The movie sets up its gut punch almost immediately, but in a subtle way. By the time the trigger has been set, the film is already underway, and there’s an emotional timebomb ticking inside of you that you don’t even realize. Every single time I see Field of Dreams on the television, I watch it. Every time I watch it, I cry. I cry, and then I call my dad, because, damn. This movie really makes you appreciate dads sometimes.
The first time I saw Saving Private Ryan, I had the most unusual thing happen. This movie didn’t just punch me in the face so hard both my eyes broke and all their fluid pour out everywhere. No. Saving Private Ryan’s denouement was a question so powerfully phrased, that I didn’t just weep uncontrollably through the end credits, aghast at its implications. No… I burst into tears again in the bathroom, popping a deuce. An emotional aftershock? Are you kidding me? I was crying in the bathroom, trying not to make noise, because, really, above and beyond the bodily function noises, you just don’t do that in a public place. And I was stunned. How did they do that? How did they know how to hit me so hard I’d fall down twice?
The only three things I remembered about Saving Private Ryan after that second emotional nuclear bomb — Steven Spielberg’s heart-string Fat Boy to my ravaged Nagasaki –was that the sniper was so very cool, how pissed off was I that the coward of the company was an actor with the last name Clary, and Tom Sizemore should just play sergeants in every movie. Oh, yeah, and I was blubbering inconsolably about none of those.
I notice now that Tom Hanks is on here twice. No, check that. Tom Hanks is on this list three times, and Gosh darn it, I was going to include The Cloud Atlas on this list — and The Green Mile, too. The Green Mile makes me cry over the stupidest little thing in the world. Every time. I think it means just one thing:
Tom Hanks is evil. He feeds on the tears of men. He must be destroyed. I am not watching his new pirate movie ever. Because he’s gonna make me cry. I just know it.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to own these movies — or even see them for the first time, I’ve put a list of them here to check out. Your generous patronage of my sponsors (like Amazon) helps keep Hard Hobbit to Break up and running. Thank you!
When I was a kid, we lived all over the place. From birth to the day I got married (at age 22), I lived in two or three houses in Virginia; two houses in Kennewick, Washington; a house in Keshena, Wisconsin; another place in Green Bay, Wisconsin; and a third place in Shawano, Wisconsin; Boise, Idaho (we lived in Boise for 3 months), then to Fresno, California and San Joaquin Valley, with four houses in Fresno, a house in Clovis, and a house in Orange Cove. I moved out of my parents’ house and lived briefly in Eagle Rock, CA, Sunland, CA, another house in Sunland, and Las Vegas (also briefly). So that’s what? Eighteen to twenty homes in a 20-22-year period. Not too shabby. Sometimes, when I moved to a new school district, I’d tell folks it was because my father was a fugitive from the law, and we were in the witness protection plan, but not as very important witnesses, because we got to keep our names.
I told my family that I appreciated them moving around a lot, because I believed I was a fugitive of a war-like race from deep in space, and I had only my faithful protector to keep me safe of this planet while I slummed in exile in a fragile human body designed to throw my assassins off the trail (yes… when I was 5 years old, I fully believed I was living a life nearly identical to what the book I Am Number Four ended up being like. How weird, right?) But the secret truth that I knew was the real reason we moved had to be with me. I was wrong in ways that couldn’t be explained by being an alien refugee. I was distorted in ways people don’t normally distort without becoming serial killers or talk show hosts.
When I was five years old, I burned down my best friend’s house.
Let me explain. No, that would take too long. Let me sum up.
We lived in a two story home in Kennewick. At least, I think it was two story. Either that, or I lived in a finished attic. It’s possible. I was five, and my memory’s pretty fuzzy. I know that I was upstairs, though, and my room had a serious draft in it that would cause a rush of wind to fly into the house whenever you opened the window.
It was cool. Like, seriously cool. Total dead air, out there in the deserts of eastern Washington, with nothing for miles in any direction except ominous Mt. Ranier glowering down at us mortals moving across the world like ants. But when I opened my window, WOOSH! Air would suck into the house like it was pushed in a blacksmith’s bellows. I had never seen anything more awesome.
Except fire. Dang I liked fire. My parents smoked. Their friends smoked. It was the early 70s: EVERYONE smoked. To smoke, you had to make fire. So through the course of however many 3 packs of cigarettes is (Does anyone still smoke? How many smokes in a pack?) my parents would show me something mind blowing every time they lit up. Fire. Fire! My dad could tear off a little piece of paper with a funny head from a small square of similar papers, smack that paper — a match, they called it — and FAROOM! Fire! You could use that match to light anything. The hibatchi, the fire place, a camp fire, even that cigarette dangling from his lips.
My best friend was Pat Owens. I don’t think he went to Fruitland Elementary with me, but he might have. I remember my best friend at Fruitland being the ignobly named Frank Baloney. No, I think Pat Owens was my best friend because my parents and his were best friends. They did Amway together, or some such. They were all going to be rich. Pat was diabetic. His dad was gruff. Pat never had fun at his house. But we had great fun at mine. Remind me to tell you about the time I left a poop-filled pair of underwear in the framework of a new house being built with Pat once. If you live in Kennewick, near Fruitland Elementary, and your house smells funny in the summertime, I’m sorry about that.
One day I told Pat he had to see something so awesome, he wouldn’t be able to believe it. I had found a pack of my dad’s matches. I had figured out how to light them. I had discovered that my window could create a blast of wind so strong, it would blow out the match I had just lit. Pat and I climbed the stairs to my room, and I showed him, like a master magician. With all the showmanship a five-year-old can muster, I lit the match, let it burn just a second, then threw the window open and FROOSH! It went out.
Pat wanted to try. He had trouble lighting the match — noob! — but once he had it lit, I threw open the window again, and out the match went, unable to withstand the sudden onrush of air. We went through that whole pack of matches before the day was over, but by the end of it, we were old hands at lighting them. We were possessors of forbidden knowledge, wielders of the secret fire of Udun. We were Prometheus.
A few weeks later, my mom told me that Pat’s house had burned to the ground. He had been playing with matches. He’d tried to light the match, open the window and… his house didn’t have the same draft. No rush of wind came to blow out the match, and when the flame reached his fingers, he panicked and lost it in the carpet. It smouldered, and eventually the carpet caught fire. By the time the fire department came, it was too late. Pat and his family escaped unharmed, but they lost everything.
My mom asked me if I ever played with matches. I told her the only thing I could tell her. “Of course not!” I imagine Pat had already told his parents where he had learned to play with matches. I imagine he had broken under the indescribable power of having your home destroyed in front of your face. I don’t remember ever seeing Pat again. We moved to a new location — this might have even been when we moved clear from Washington to Shawano, Wisconsin. No one ever said why we moved. Maybe it was for a better job, like Dad said. I think it was because I had destroyed my friend’s house, destroyed his entire family’s life. Maybe it wasn’t my dad who was a fugitive from the law. Maybe it was me.
If you’re reading this, and you know Pat Owens, please tell him I’m sorry. I have done so very many things in my life that I am ashamed of that if I’m ever going absolve myself into a position where I feel like I can die without regret, I need to start making amends today. I’m sorry I burned your house down, Pat. I hope that day hasn’t haunted you as often as it has haunted me.
And kids? Don’t play with matches. I mean, seriously. Adults tell you this stuff not because they don’t want you to have fun. They say it because sometimes they’ve seen shit you would not believe — and they’d like to spare you from having to ever see that shit yourself.
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