Saturday, February 7, 2009

Living the Dream VI - The Last Day

The sixth and final installment by my brother Ed as he reports on his experience at the Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp in City of Palms, Florida. As with the other five installments, I present these posts to you unchanged, other than a couple of spelling errors or words smashed together. Scroll down to the beginning of the series to get the whole skinny.

Despite getting knocked out of the championship game by a shocking loss on Day 5, Ed shows he hasn't lost any of the skills that made him a heady ballplayer back in his prime. Ed tells the story of his surprising last day beautifully. Here we go:

This morning we arrived at the locker room at the Red Sox Player Development Center one last time. We are going to play against the coaches and former pros at the City of Palms Stadium. We have to suit up one more time dressed in our home uniforms (white)....Took one last look (see attached) and made one last visit to the trainer for the morning stretch and wrap. After we pack up all of our stuff (really cool stuff) we are called to get on the team bus to the field.

We arrive about 9:30 for the 10:15 abbreviated game (3 innings) against the former pros...As we walked in from the parking lot, we could see the team before us getting beat rather routinely. We were next.... At 10:00 AM we took the field for a brief (and I mean brief) warm up.

The batting order was submitted to Joe Castiglione (voice of the Red Sox) and he announced each of us one by one. Today's opposing pitcher was Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd.....not a good sign.

In the "coaches pitch" (afternoon) games during the weeks, his team hated facing him because he can still really pitch (and because he even picked off a runner on his own team); 80 to 85 mph fastball, nasty slider and a curveball that looks like someone dropped it from a plane.

Two of our first three hitters roped singles (one them after about a 10 pitch battle)....good for them, bad for me....I bat 5th. Our number 4 clean-up hitter grounded into a double-play. I thought maybe Oil Can would forget about the 2 singles until I heard all of his team giving him crap about giving up two hits.

First batter for the pros Al Bumbry walks. Lou Merloni hit a towering fly ball to the warning track in left for one out. Next batter gets hit by a pitch. Then Rich Gedman walks. John Valentin is next (someone I've watched for years) and figured he was going to try to pull the ball....always did, always will....I moved over to my right to close the hole between shortstop and third base.....and like I've seen hundreds of times before, he hit a two hop grounder right to me between short and third.... I threw the ball to second for one and the second baseman could not pull the trigger on the relay throw that surely would have completed the 6-4-3 double play because Valentin was nursing a bad hamstring (aren't we all). One run scores without the benefit of a hit.

Next batter is the "Spaceman" Bill Lee and he pops up, a real major league pop up....the kind where you can loose your concentration because it stays up so long.....and I caught it for the third out. Pretty good showing...but I lead off the top of the 2nd inning and hope that Oil Can has a short memory....His warm-up pitches are starting to sound like he's a little pissed off......

First pitch to me is low and outside. I tried not to lean over the plate to see but I was able to take it for ball one. Next pitch is right down the middle for strike one and I think I can time his fastball. Two consecutive fastballs is good......the next one is likely to be a slider.....yep, low and outside - ball two. I may have instinctively leaned over the plate because the next pitch I was looking for was a high inside fastball....there it was and I fouled it back to the screen. I feel like I'm right on him...

Next pitch low outside fastball 3 balls - 2 strikes. He's got to come back with an inside fastball....he does and I rocked it about 325 feet (to the base of the 330 foot fence).....I thought it was gone....I flipped the bat away and watched as it sailed into left field and started to hook (just like golf) and the continued to hook towards the line into the corner.......FOUL.....damn, a little too early. I thought I got one....just missed!!

I knew Oil Can wasn't going to like me flipping the bat and watching the ball and I was ready for either the big curve ball or the was a nasty slider, low and away....I tried to check my swing but the umpire didn't agree......strike 3 swinging (first strikeout all week). But it was against Oil Can Boyd and I appreciated the fact that he had enough respect for me that he would throw me a 3-2 slider (at least that's how I see it).....he agreed. I looked over my shoulder when I walked back to the dugout and he gave me thumbs up....respect.
Tonight we had the awards banquet. The attached picture is not Paul Newman it's Butch Hobson. I included the attached photo for my cousin Vivian...(here you go Viv)... The champions were congratulated and each of the offensive, defensive and pitching awards was given to a worthy recipient.....and yes, I did win the batting title for the week and received a very nice glass trophy that will be engraved with my name and Batting Champion....very, very cool!!!

Flying back Sunday night late.....Hope to see you guys soon and tell you all the stories.

Please forward the news to whomever you want......Enjoy.

Yes, we did.

Living The Dream V

Day 5 of my brother Ed's trip to Red Sox Fantasy Camp. Despite a bad hamstring and a sprained right finger on his throwing hand, Ed's bat is on fire and he's pitching effectively without his middle finger touching the ball. Here's more from Ed:

So last night the entire team took our coaches (Spaceman Bill Lee and Felix Maldonado) out to dinner...I had the pleasure of hearing more stories about more things than I ever thought possible. I can neither repeat, understand or remember any of them. But I'll never forget them.

3 1/2 hours later I was walking back to the hotel crossing the street (Florida Highway 41 - kind of like a six-lane Berlin [CT] Turnpike) with the Spaceman and his wife. You wouldn't believe some of the things that come out of his mouth. 10:30PM can't wait to get to bed.....before I do anymore damage.

In the morning one of my teammates was driving to the park and I was thankful to get to the trainer early....first it was 15 minutes in the hot whirlpool (good thing because it was 35 degrees at 6:00AM again!!), then 10 minutes on the stationary bike. After breakfast and a lot of stretching from the trainer, back, biceps, shoulder, a wrapped hamstring and bandaged finger we had our last clubhouse meeting...At the clubhouse meeting, each coach reported on the previous day's games.

Two of the coaches we played against the previous day (Jon Valentin and Rich Gedman) were very complimentary to our team and me in particular...very nice to hear. The game statistics for the first 6 games were posted (sorry no pictures today). I have now taken over the batting average lead (.824 they must have found another hit somewhere) with one more day to go. All we need to do is win Game 1 and we are in the championship final.

I lead off Game 1 with a single and advanced to 3rd on two consecutive singles loading the bases in the first inning with no outs. The next guy hit a one hopper to the pitcher who threw home for a home to first double-play. The next guy grounded weakly to first and we squandered an opportunity to score first.....not a good sign.

The other team answered with 2 runs in the bottom of the first. Then our bats went silent....for some inexplicable reason, the team could not produce a run scoring inning or put a ball anywhere other than an opponents glove. To top that off, every time the other team hit the ball, it was deep when we were playing in and a blooper when we were playing back. One particular blooper to left cost me my hamstring....again!!

Fortunately, the trainer was right there at the field to work on the cramping muscle and tighten up the wrap. This time however it was worse than the last time and I had to miss an inning for the first time since I got here. The other team scored 2 more while I was on my back and we could only scratch across one run and the rest of the game went by in a flash....4 to championship (my roommate's team won) and we had to play a consolation (3rd place game) at 1:00PM......damn!!

We were in must have looked pretty know it's bad when Rich Gedman (member of the 1986 Red Sox team the lost to the Mets) comes over to console you......

After Game 1 we go back inside for lunch.....and nobody special drops by ... Unless you think Kevin Youklis, Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen aren't special. Sunny skies and warmer temps finally return and we get to see 72 degrees (not exactly beach weather but its suppose to be 80 degrees tomorrow).

Living the Dream IV

Yet another installment from my brother Ed at the Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp in sunny Florida.  I'm  not changing anything, nor am I leaving anything out.  Ed likes to use the dot-dot-dot thingies a lot so that doesn't mean I cut anything.....And now, back to our "field" correspondent.  Take it away Ed:

So this morning when we were waiting for the bus to take to the Park, a car pulls up and Butch Hobson says "you guys need a ride?".....It's always best to get an early start because the line for the trainers gets longer as the morning progresses....first it was 15 minutes in the hot whirlpool (good thing because it was 35 degrees at 6:00AM), then 10 minutes on the stationary bike.

After a good breakfast and a little lower back stretch from the trainer, a range of motion exercise for my achy shoulder, a wrapped hamstring and bandaged finger (see attached) we had our clubhouse meeting...At the clubhouse meeting, they reported that the game statistics for the first 4 games were posted (see attached just in case you thought I was fibbin' a little). Today was expected to be very difficult after "blow-out Wednesday" because you now have entire teams decimated by injury. My team has had very little injury and most of us are getting better.

Game 1 was quite a surprise. The "Spaceman" had an idea. "Let me see you throw with your finger taped," he said. So I warmed up with a few tosses and then tried to throw holding the ball mostly with just my thumb and one finger on the ball. He said, "That's what I thought. You throw a perfect sinker...You're starting the game today!"

I didn't argue but I never thought I'd last 4 innings and leave the game with a 9 to 1 lead. We got two runs early and added 6 more in the 3rd inning. The coach sent me to shortstop in the 5th and we won the game. I went 2 for 2 and pitched 4 solid innings without my middle finger touching the ball. Our opponents did not hit one ball into the outfield until the 7th inning but by then it was way too late.

After Game 1 we go back inside for lunch.....and look who drops by ... It's Mike Greenwell. (Actually, he looks like someone who ATE Mike Greenwell-picture tomorrow) ... so I got picture of Oil Can instead. A quick trip to the trainer for a little lower back and shoulder stretch. Sunny skies and warmer temps helped but it was amazing how good I felt considering the bumps and bruises I have.

For Game 2 the weather is starting to improve hourly. The sun is shining, the wind is dissipating and the temp is climbing to high 50's. We start off with 5 quick runs on a barrage of singles and doubles. My swing has been inhibited by the bad finger but I still managed enough contact to bloop a few singles into right field. The other team had no answer for the onslaught and we won 9 to 2. A double play ended the only threat in the 7th when the opponents finally managed to push 2 runs across.....

After getting 4 hits in 5 at bats today, I finished the three days 13 for 17 officially...765 average... not bad for 50.....My team and my roommate's team are still the only remaining undefeated teams....With one more win and a little luck, we will be playing in the Championship game at the City of Palms complex at 3:30......Say a prayer and wish me luck!!

Please forward the news to whomever you want......Enjoy.

Living the Dream III

Another installment from my brother Ed. Scroll down and start from Day One:
So last night I was sitting down relaxing outside by the pool smoking a cigar and Luis Tiant leaned over and asked for a light....I said "certainly". Then he said something I can neither repeat nor understand.....anyway....

This morning we arrived at the Red Sox Player Development Center for breakfast and a trip to the trainer's room for a little relief from sore body parts (see a pattern developing?).....after a good breakfast and a little lower back stretch from the trainer and a range of motion exercise for my achy shoulder we had our clubhouse meeting...This training staff is the best...they are like magicians. Today is referred to as "blow-out Wednesday" because this is usually the day when all the old guys and a lot of the young guys blow-out their hamstrings.

Game 1 was a blowout from the start (the score, not the hamstrings). We started hitting from the first inning and didn't stop till the game was over. We won 18-3. Our opponents hit one ball past the pitcher in the first 5 innings. We discovered a new pitcher and he was spectacular. Good thing because it looks like my pitching days are over. During the 4th inning while throwing the ball around he infield, I stuck my hand in the glove too quickly and jammed the top knuckle on the middle finger and my throwing hand. It swelled immediately so I taped it up and learned to throw without using that finger (not easy). It didn't stop me from hitting though. Went 3 for 3 with a double and knocked in a bunch of runs.

After Game 1 we go back inside for lunch.....and look who drops by (see attached). It's Dwight "Dewey" Evans and he could not have been nicer. Much different than the Jim Rice experience. A quick trip to the trainer to see what they could do for the finger. They taped it better and sent me off to play.

For Game 2 the weather is starting to turn. The sun is shining but the wind is starting to blow and the temp is starting to drop. We start off with 2 quick runs on four consecutive singles to start the game. Mine was the last of the 4 and drove in the 2 runs. However, as I rounded second after the throw to the plate, I could feel my hamstring grab and I had to stop running immediately.

After the third out was made, I jogged gingerly off the field to the on-site trainer. He quickly stretched me out and wrapped my leg while the team warmed-up to start the inning. I was back on the field before the pitcher was through with his tosses.

The other team had a little trouble getting started in the first three innings because we ended each with a double play. Since my range at shortstop was limited by the hamstring injury, I permitted the other team a few base runners that they would not normally have gotten. They scored 4 runs to take the lead 4-2 in the 4th inning. We answered with 5 runs in the bottom of the 5th to reclaim the lead 7 to 4. Another double play ended the threat in the 6th and the other team went quietly in the 7th and we had our second victory of the day.....

After getting hits in 9 consecutive at bats starting yesterday, I finished the two days 10 for 13.....not bad for 50.....My team and my roommate's team are the only remaining undefeated teams....

Spent an hour with the training staff to see if they could save my hamstring. The finger hurts but I can play with it, I just can't pitch. It's suppose to be 30 degrees tomorrow morning for Game 1 (not very good for the hamstrings). Oh well, I really, really miss work......yah right

Please forward the news to whomever you want......Enjoy.

Living the Dream II

Part two of my brother Ed's adventures at the Boston Red Sox Fantasy Camp in Florida. Scroll down and check out part one first. Here's Ed:

So I was talking to Oil Can Boyd at the bar last night....well he was talking and I can neither repeat nor understand what he was saying.....anyway....

This morning we arrived at the Red Sox Player Development Center for breakfast and a trip to the trainer's room for a little relief from sore body parts.....After a good breakfast and a little lower back stretch from the trainer, I'm good as new and ready for the morning meeting. This meeting is for everybody in the clubhouse to discuss the schedule for the day and to address the fines levied in the Kangaroo Court from the day before.....(like some guys get fined $1 for going to bat with their pockets sticking out of their pants or if they fall down while running to first base, etc.).

Game 1 started well as we jumped on the opposing pitcher for 5 runs in the first. I got my first and only hit of the game (a real line drive single) to drive in the 3rd and 4th run. I probably should have mentioned that the pitcher was 6'-4" and weighed about 230 lbs. Good thing he was 68 years old. We won our first "real" game 9 to 3 behind a stellar 5 innings from our 72 year old pitcher and my first 2 inning save. I had all five pitches working today and I think I've been designated as "the closer". It's pretty easy following a 72 year old junk baller with 60 mph "heat".

After Game 1 we go back inside for lunch.....and look who drops by (see attached). It's the most recent Red Sox Hall of Fall inductee Jim Rice. During lunch I was sitting with Lou Merloni and Rich Gedman. On the table next to me is the 2007 World Series trophy and a couple of rings (see attached). Very cool!!

For Game 2 we must board a team bus and travel down the road to City of Palms Field (see attached) where the big league Red Sox play their spring training games you see on TV......BEAUTIFUL!!!

The rules for the afternoon game change a little because one of your coaches must pitch. Remember now, I have to face "Spaceman" Bill Lee. He is still some kind of great pitcher. He is so good, he hit my bat 3 times during the game and I finished with 3 hits (4 for 6 on the day....not bad).

The game was against my roommate's team (see attached photo with my roommate John, myself and John's look-alike teammate Bob) and ended in a 2-2 tie... it was very crisply played contest, quite exciting as we tied the game in the top of the 7th and turned a double play with the winning run on 3rd base......what a great park and a terrific day......

How much snow did you guys get?? Only 65 degrees here today but the wind chill made it seem like....65 degrees.

Living the Dream I

Right now, I am waist deep in a job search I am reluctant to write about for some reason. Until I get over myself, let's hear from my brother Ed who turned 50 a couple of months ago.

Ed is the middle child and acts like it. He is the most pragmatic of our clan, being bookended by a couple of dreamers. So who knew he harbored a secret desire to fulfill diamond fantasies and return to the baseball field where he excelled in his youth?

Yes, Ed gave himself a birthday present this year. Currently, he is in Florida playing baseball at the Red Sox spring training HQ participating in their Fantasy Camp. Each night he sends us a long email with pics describing his adventures with Red Sox from days gone by and his fellow campers.

How my brother became a Red Sox fan is anybody's guess. His parents were two of the most rabid Yankee rooters on the planet. I'm thinking he was dropped on his head as a baby because there is no other explanation for the kind of damage necessary to root for the Red Sox. Sure, they won a couple of World Championships so far this century. They did early last century as well. We all know what happened next, but I digress.

Without further ado or obnoxious comment, here's my brother Ed.....

Hi Everybody,

If today is the worst day (weather-wise), it is gonna be a great week!!

Had skills evaluations today and a practice game for evaluation. I played shortstop and pitched an inning (closer). Got one hit in a very windy ball park. Fielded all chances cleanly and made the right throws (not always caught by the fielder). Gave one guy a haircut he won't soon forget. My one hit was a fisted blooper over shortstop in my one at bat. My evaluation team wasn't very good so I only had one chance to hit.

I was drafted to play on the team that will be managed by "Spaceman" Bill Lee. I was told he drafted me late in the first round or early in the 2nd, he couldn't remember (typical). He's a really great guy and he wants everybody to know that all those stories you heard about him over the years are "probably true".

Here is a partial list of the players I've met so far: Jose Santiago, Mike Torres, Shag Crawford, Jim Corsi, Gary Allenson, Bill Campbell, Rick Miller, Steve "Psycho" Lyons, Sam Horn, Rich Gale, Rich Gedman, Rick Wise, Bill Lee, Bob Montgomery, Jon Valentin, Butch Hobson, George Thomas, Frank Malzone, Dick Drago, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Kevin Youklis and others I can't remember right now.

If that's not cool enough, take a look at the photos attached. The two guys in the picture are my roommate John from West Hartford and Frank Viola.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ms Communication

Today is my birthday. Most likely, it's the last birthday I ever have. No, I'm not planning to do something rash. I'm not dying of cancer, either.

For the last two weeks, my wife asks me what I want to do for my birthday. My answer is always the same; nothing. I want no fuss made. No party. No dinner out. No movie. Nothing. Unfortunately, my wife forgets I am a man which means the words coming out of my mouth mean pretty much what they do in the dictionary. There are no hidden meanings, no hoping she won't listen to me and do something anyway.

My birthday is a time of reflection about the past year. What were my mistakes? What can I do better this year? Sometimes, reflecting happens on a hike by myself or a trip to the library. Maybe it's a drive or a walk down the street. Sometimes I like to include others so I can tell them how much I value their love and friendship. My birthday is not about cake and presents. It's about presence and the present.

On her way out the door, Robin makes suggestions about where we will go to dinner for my birthday. Since she didn't listen to what I said all week, I'm pretty much resigned to a dinner out. I even offered to make dinner myself but to no avail. During the day, I work with my editor putting the final polish on a magazine article, spend time trolling and craigslist for another writing gig, write an email to someone I worked with 20 years ago on the same subject and talk to a technician about servicing some fuel injectors.

By this time, my wife comes home with a couple of wrapped presents and is all excited about taking me out. She goes out for a run and I ponder whether I should make another case for low-keying my birthday. By the time she comes back, I decide not to say anything. Big mistake.

Now we're out at the restaurant. My skin is literally crawling because I meant what I said; no fuss please. I can't believe how uncomfortable I am with all the attention. The whole time, I'm wondering how much damage I'll do to my marriage if I bolt.

So I violate Newton's First Law of Marriage (Make your wife's happiness your own) and tell her I wish she listened to me all last week. Robin replies since I didn't say anything today, she thought I changed my mind. I try to tell her how I want to spend my birthday and why. Big mistake. Now I'm ruining her good time because all she wants to do is treat her husband on his birthday. Unfortunately, I make the situation worse by staying with the subject when all she wants to do is change it. We curtail the dinner early and she smolders all the way home. Once home, she throws my toothbrush and some toothpaste out the bedroom door and slams it shut.

So what kind of jerk denies his wife the opportunity to celebrate her husband's birthday with a few tokens of affection? Let's see if I can explain it to you any better than I explained it to her. First off, I'm horrible at both giving and receiving gifts. Talk about anxiety and flop sweat. I've built 16 car engines but I can't buy a gift without panicking. So I don't want to inflict that kind of agita on anyone else. Even if that person exhibits no such behavior.

Even as a kid, I did not enjoy my birthday parties. However, I enjoy going to your birthday parties. My birthdays themselves were always a minefield. A few of them went very badly. On my 11th birthday, my aunts, uncles and cousins are all over to celebrate. Everybody's laughing and having a good time. The television flickers in the background. Suddenly, a special report interrupts the regularly scheduled program so we all pay attention.

Okay, that doesn't sound like much, especially in this day and age where everything is a "special report." Back then, interruptions in regularly scheduled programming occurred only for real news like the Kennedy assassination. This time, a somber Chet Huntley told us astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffeee burned alive in a pure oxygen environment while testing their Apollo 1 capsule on the pad.

Talk about putting a damper on the festivities. The Space Program was a big deal and a source of pride. Now America had their first casualties in the Space Race. It was a huge blow and a horrible way to die. Everyone was numb. They all just left. I don't even remember if I got to blow out the candles.

Another January 27th celebration ended early with a heated discussion about religion. Seems the older generation was taken aback when they heard some of the younger generation didn't believe what they believed. That argument changed the boundaries of conversation in our family for many holidays to come. At least they waited until I got to blow out the candles.

There are a couple of other examples but you get the picture. I tiptoe around the date reflexively, as if too much attention means something bad happens.

There is another reason (I can hear the women reading this post saying to themselves, "There better be another reason."). Other than being born, meeting my wife is the most pivotal day in my entire life. Everything changed on February 14, 2003. I found someone who believes the content of my character is more important than the content of my investment portfolio (she's probably rethinking that one).

Every day I spend with this woman is like Christmas, Mardi Gras and a hundred thousand birthdays rolled into one. Every day she does me a million little kindnesses and doesn't even know it. Every day I wake up next to her and give thanks because she's still there. When her daughters are over and I'm cooking and the girls are laughing, I rejoice because I have people to do for. I'm part of something bigger than myself. I might be the second string, but I'm in the game.

Even when we argue, even though I'm doing some couch time when I finish writing this thing, I want to get on my knees and thank The Almighty and for providing this 53-year-old balding, freelance voice talent, writer, mountaineer and mechanic with someone who loves me so much, she can be really pissed at me. You can't be that mad at someone you don't care about.

Every day of my marriage is such an enriching experience, such a huge and powerful force, anything above and beyond that (like too much attention on my birthday) is way too much. Total circuit overload. Like welding without protective goggles.

That's why my birthday is a time to sort things out. Birthdays are an unchanging milestone so they mark your progress as a human being. There are a lot of areas I must improve at or I am afraid I'll be alone again managing rental property for avaricious management companies, unrealistic owners and ungrateful tenants.

By the time I have some grip on the whole marriage thing, I'll be 127. That's the downside of a first-time marriage as a fifty-something. Twenty-eight-year-olds make the same mistakes I make. How many incidents like this can a marriage endure before it erodes? Can I work out the communication issues? I hope so. Otherwise, I'll never get off the couch.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Still Choked Up Over Christmas

What a week. Everybody in the house is or was sick, including me. My wife had a virus, her youngest daughter Natalie has tonsillitis, Natalie's visiting cousin Kyle is under the weather from a tough semester at K-State and I caught my current illness from my wife. We are so far behind, we took the Christmas tree down yesterday. That's right. Our house still had Christmas decorations up on January 9. If it wasn't for the kids taking the initiative (they pink up sooner than the old folks), the tree would still be up. Thanks to Natalie's boyfriend James for pitching in. Unfortunately, James may be next to go down because of it.

My wife Robin's blog, Pomegranate Vintage Modern, reflects her beautiful yet frugal aesthetic sense but does not reflect the somewhat crispy Christmas tree drooping forlornly in the corner of the living room. You heard it here first: A penetrating behind-the-scenes look at how tastemakers really live. Next: Secret hidden photos of Martha Stewart buying velour loungewear at Wal-Mart.

This Christmas was a memorable one in many ways. Previously, I alluded to cutting back on gifts this year so everybody got more creative. Robin gave me one night at the fabulous old Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. Now I have to decide who I'm taking (That's a joke, honey. No, it's humor.... OWW!). In an effort to encourage and inspire the girls' interest in all things design, I prepaid for tours of three LA architectural landmarks (Schindler House, Gamble House and Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House).

Gift opening lasts two hours, even with
a third less booty overall. Each newly sprung present creates endless rounds of discussion about how to use the item to the fullest extent. One blouse elucidates countless combinations with various and sundry apparel either pre-owned or newly received by the recipient. Women discuss clothes like guys talk about variations in the New York Football Giants' blitz package. I'm still new to this world.

The best part was having the kids hanging out at the house all day, lounging around and watching movies. We rarely get to see them in repose anymore as they always jump up and head out on one expedition or another. Of course, this is when all the exotic bugs and diseases carried from their various far-flung habitats like Manhattan, Kansas, San Francisco and Silver Lake commingle and plot to take out the old people.

While the kids are relaxing, Robin and I make preparations for our prime rib Christmas dinner. My mom made a lovely donation so part of the proceeds went to a very nice hunk of beef, on sale of course. We're short a green vegetable so Robin asks me to sautè some broccoli. So I drop some into a skillet with hot olive oil and garlic. Robin tastes a piece of broccoli and I turn back to the pan. A second later I receive a sharp poke in the back. I whirl around and Robin mouths the word "choking!"

My first instinct is hitting her sharply between the shoulder blades. That doesn't work. Robin is caught between breaths with a fearful look on her face. Suddenly I realize we have a full-blown situation. I spin Robin around and perform the Heimlich Maneuver but nothing happens. Robin is still choking. I pull her so hard she leaves the floor with my arms gripped around her sternum. Finally, the piece of garlic or whatever moves enough for her to draw a breath. She starts coughing and finally clears her breathing passages completely. The kids are still watching a movie, unaware of the drama in the kitchen.

Funny thing about Real Life; there's no musical prelude to let us know something dramatic will happen in the next moment. One minute we go about our business. The next minute brings heart failure or an accident or choking. I lose about ten seconds before realizing my wife is checking out. When I perform the Heimlich Maneuver, I forget to ball one fist, cover it with the other hand and stick it under her sternum to concentrate the force. In wrapping my arms around her, I need way too much force to accomplish the job. If the lodged piece is any bigger, this story has a different ending.

I learned my First Aid as a Boy Scout in the late Sixties / early Seventies. In the past, I used my skills to help others. At college, I clamped my hand over a pumping arterial bleed stemming from a one-car collision with a bridge abutment I witnessed on Storrow Drive in Boston. My father and I administered mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions on a man at the Golden Lantern Restaurant in Warwick, RI. I've immobilized broken limbs, treated for shock and helped keep a fellow runner from dying of heat stroke. The upshot is I do not panic. Instead, my instinct is to move forward, not away.

However, those were all strangers. When my wife can't breathe, I take too long to recognize the danger and forget key details in administering aid. For one second, I allow myself to think about what happens if Robin dies and how I explain it to her daughters. Thinking inhibits reflexive action reinforced by repetition and sows the seeds of panic.

Therefore, my New Year's resolution is to find the funds for and take a First Responder course so I can be certified in First Aid. The most likely use for such knowledge is our backcountry wanderings and mountain climbing. Chances are, I know and love the person receiving the medical attention in that situation. Christmas is a warning. I hear it loud and clear.