My Poem for Bill Murray

No, Bill...YOU.

I interrupt this inexcusable blogging hiatus to bring you my submission to the Bill Murray poetry contest, which I believe was my destiny to enter. The contest had a 34-line limit, so a couple stanzas here didn’t make it into my submission. But you lucky readers get the whole thing, uncensored and uncut. Here goes!

To the Duke of Deadpan

Hey there, Bill Murray — or William, or friend
Goofy-pantsed man at the golfers’ pro-am.
Master of all expressions deadpan,
Unlikely lump of a leading man.

Eight brothers and sisters! (I’ve got only 2.)
From wee beginnings, you grew and you grew.
At 6 feet 1 inch, you are no Dr. J
But your presence is felt from the Bronx to the Bay.

Live from New York! You had your premiere
(To a mixture of knee-slaps and occasional jeers.)
You apologized live for your un-funny ways
But I’m begging you, please let this Star War stay.

Yet a star was born, and to the silver screen you went
Horrifying golfers with your anti-gopher bent
The old ladies enthralled you in their putting wares
Carl Spackler, you are sick beyond repair.

You tore through the 80s, a box-office king
(And you’re not only funny — turns out you can sing!)
Stripes and Tootsie and Ghostbusters and Scrooged
And you won fame with honor! Never appeared in the nude.

My relaxing times are spent with Venkman and Ray.
(Forgive me — I prefer #2 to this day.)
Valentine’s Day! World ending! What a bummer, you said.
That Paramas chick wasn’t right in the head.

You saved us from ghosts and goblins and ghouls
Riding Lady Liberty through New York’s avenues
To your fair lady Dana you came to the rescue–
And a satisfied smirk was our sign-off from you.

Hey Bill, you can sail! And you did on try 1.
See what happens when you let loose and have fun?
Dr. Marvin was mean, a real jealous prick.
Like you said to the mayor, “This man has no —-.”

What will tomorrow bring? A repeat of today?
Piano mastery? Un peu de fran├žais?
Will you win the heart of Andie M.?
Or will the hum-drum of today continue ad infinitum?

Not sure what to say about Op. Dumbo Drop.
Hey, everybody’s entitled to the occasional flop.
In Space Jam, you played some hoops with His Airness
Winning it all…though you didn’t play defense.

We saw a new Bill in that weird Rushmore flick:
A gloomy rich dude whose intentions were sick.
You’d been lonely, you said, heartbroken and the like
But did you have to run over poor Max’s bike?

Tokyo found you unable to rest
(But consistently head and shoulders above the rest.)
You had to cook your own food and toast all alone
But in the wee hours, you and she would talk on the phone.

So what did you say to Scarlett Jo?!
Maybe I don’t really want to know.
Like her, I felt lost when I saw you go.
To the Oscars you went, with my heart in tow.

Bill! Sometimes I actually wish you were here!
We could sing karaoke; I’d buy you a beer.
It just drives me nuts when people are dumb
But together, we could face them all with aplomb.

Call it karma, call it luck, or you can call it fate,
Everything happens for a reason, mate.
It just doesn’t matter, like you said at camp.
(But that kid won anyway — fast little champ.)

So I’ll leave broken flowers in these few lines to you
A tip of the hat, because it is due.
Maybe not total consciousness, but a life in review–
So Bill, you’ve got that going for you.

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Marley and Amos and Me

Well, I did it: I saw Marley and Me.

Amos

Amos

This was no easy task for me. My own dog, Amos, a 90-pound golden retriever who would fall into the “helluva dog” category, died in the summer of 2007. He was undoubtedly my truest friend.

So when I sat down to watch this movie, I knew full well that I’d be a blubbery mess. Especially since both my mother and father had reported to me: “Don’t see it. I cried like a baby.”

Good lord, they weren’t kidding: I started crying when the movie studio intro started playing. By the end, I was sobbing uncontrollably in a monstrous display of saline, while my snot and mascara raced to the bottom of my chin.

So the question is, was it worth it? Did it help me get over the loss of my pup?

Well, no. Seeing up-close shots of puppy-killer being injected into poor Marley didn’t cathartically heal the wounds of holding Amos’ face against mine while the vet put him down in our kitchen. That part, I couldn’t even watch.

But I guess there’s some silver lining: I found some writerly inspiration in John Grogan, the Philadelphia Inquirer columnist who wound up writing a book about this scoundrel of a canine.

So now, my thoughts turn to Amos.

Me torturing Sarge

Me torturing Sarge

I was 10 when we got him. My childhood dog, Sarge, had just passed away, and since my brother and sister were both in college, that just left me, Mom and Dad at home. So one day, my siblings brought home a surprise. It was my dad’s birthday.

“It better not be a dog,” he barked from his birthday throne.

But a dog it was. A pudgy dog who sat on our kitchen floor thinking “who the hell are these people, and where’s the kibble.”

I didn’t know what to think about this mutt at first (though I did burst into tears at the sight of him — I’m emotional! So what!). He bit me a lot. And he peed all over.

But I grew to love him (even though I dropped him down the stairs the first day he proved to be too heavy for a 10 year-old to carry) and pretty soon, I took him wherever I went. We went on in this fashion — him riding shotty, me pouring cereal on the floor for him, etc. — for nearly 14 years.

Some important facts about Amos:

1) He could tell time. My mom swears that once, when I was in high school, she said to Amos, “Time to wake up Mary!” and — as legend has it — he looked up at the clock.

2) Amos got the paper every morning. He went down the hill, picked up The News Journal and paraded around the house with it until we gave him a treat.

Home from college, illin with the pup

Home from college, illin with the pup

3) He was a drama queen, especially in his later years. My mom would tell me about his theatrics at the kennel: They’d show up, Amos would lay down in the waiting room and roll over on his back, the front desk kid would announce on the loudspeaker, “Amos is here; a cart for Amos up front.” Two people would then wheel a large cart up to the front, bend down, pick up my dog and mount him on the cart. As they wheeled him away, he’d flip over and grin at us, like “F*ck yeah I get a cart!” The first time I saw it for myself, I peed my pants.

4) Amos was a sweet boy. He could always tell when someone needed a friend, putting his head in your lap and licking away any tears. When my parents and I would occasionally fight (as teenagers and their parents sometimes do), he would pace around the house and jump in our laps, seeming to say “Stop that! No fighting!” That would usually calm things down — anything to not hurt our boy.

Around 2005, my sister got Marley and Me for Christmas. Amos was 12 at the time, fully white-faced and noticeably slower than when he was a pup. Fearing the worst, I skipped ahead to the end of the book. I started sobbing — on Christmas! — and swore I’d never read it.

And then it was the summer of 2007. On August 22, I interviewed for an editing job in Center City. I nailed it. That evening, my parents called. They asked me how the interview went and I gave them the play-by-play. My dad said, “Great job Mar, we’re proud of you.” But then, in a classic case of When-God-opens-a-window-he-closes-a-door, he said, “Mary, your mom’s going to get on the other line.”

I immediately knew.

“You need to come home tonight. Your dog–”

That’s all I needed to hear. The other details — that he’d lost his vision, had fallen down the stairs and injured his spine, which had now caused his hind legs to be paralyzed — were too horrible to bear.

Acrobatics

Acrobatics

I went home and spent the night in the kitchen, stroking his ears and telling him I loved him, that he was the best dog I’d ever known, thanking him for being so sweet to my parents and my friends.

The next morning, when he still couldn’t walk, we called the vet. He and his assistant would be there shortly.

I laid on the floor with Amos and waited. He gave us all his doggy smile — he still had his youthful energy, but I think he knew it was his time.

The vets arrived and told us what to do. My job was to hug him, turn his face away from where they’d inject him. “Just sleep now,” I said. “Sleep now.”

They made the injection. I felt the life drain out of him. Looked in his eyes and he was gone.

My mom, dad and I all just cried and cried. I can still picture my father weeping openly, something I hadn’t seen before or since. “Well,” said the vet. “He was one in a million.”

Amos loved car rides.

Amos loved car rides.

I still don’t know how I had the strength to hold my dog while he died. Guess I just had to be there for him, like he’d been there for me in the midst of all those breakups and college rejection letters.

It was my task to write to the family. I did so that afternoon, sending out a four-sentence email to our extended family. I got 40 lengthy responses, all from people who’d been touched by this wet-nosed ruffian who came to us in 1993.

“It better not be a dog,” my dad had said then. And what a dog he was.

So that’s my Marley story.

I don’t think seeing Marley and Me helped me get over my dog dying, no. But here I am, writing this little tribute that, while probably sad, sappy and overly long to you, was a long time coming on Pish de Luxe’s part.

Amos, I hope you’re up there picking up God’s newspaper. He better be giving you treats.

The best dog in the world.

The best dog in the world. Miss you buddy.

When We Won Game 3

John C., Poncho and Pish de Luxe

John C., Poncho and Pish de Luxe

It’s 3 in the morning, Born in the U.S.A. is cranked up to 11 and there’s a dumbass grin on both the faces in the room.

The Phils won Game 3.

The f*cking Phillies won Game 3.

You know what happened. Nearly postponed due to rain, game starts at 9:45pm instead of 8:30, Utley, Ruiz and Howard crush some long balls, 1st Base umpire blows a call on a beautiful play by Jamie Moyer, game gets re-tied at 4, Bruntlett subs in for Pat the Bat, entire city screams “F*ck you Charlie,” Bruntlett gets hit by a pitch and, after two more players get walked, scores on a grounder by Ruiz. Phils win.

I sh*t my pants. I hugged my boss. I stomped up and down. I went to Pat’s.

Now there are moments in your life that you remember always. Like when I figured out in pre-school which was my left hand and which was my right. Like when I first cruised around without training wheels. Like when a boy first told me he loved me. Well. Walking through South Philadelphia, surrounded by the cacophony of horns and orders of “Wiz wit,” high-fiving with strangers in “The Bat” jerseys, completely throw-up full of Pat’s King of Steaks, knowing that the Phils are up 2-1 in the World Series, walking towards home in the city I love — well that memory should stay with me always.

I fully expect that, over the next few days, the memories will pile on top of each other like a celebratory pile at the pitcher’s mound. But who’s to say.

Well now it’s 3:08 and we’re on to Bobby Jean. Dudes gotta go to sleep. Iggles play at 1. Phils play at 8:30. Another day in glory-hungry Philadelphia. F*ck yes.

Ed. Update: A Few Hours Later…

Alright, that post wasn’t so horrible for 3am.

It’s 1:03pm and I just woke up. Just in time for more sports. But this was me about an hour ago:

For voodoo purposes

For voodoo purposes

Yay sports. Go Birds. Go Phils.

When Mary Met Bruce (kind of)

It’s no secret that I like love am obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. So when I heard that the man himself was performing in Philly, for free, in the name of Barack Obama — well, I nearly had a fainting spell.

(Keep in mind that this was the best week of my life. I saw both Pinback and Stereolab, the Phils made the playoffs (eff yes!!), and I got to witness Shane Victorino’s epic grand slam up close and personal. I’m also going to the Iggles game in a few short hours, sitting somewhere like Row 15. Don’t sleep.)

But back to the Springsteen. When I heard about the show, I marched down to the Obama office at 1500 Sansom and promptly volunteered to do data entry in exchange for two preferred viewing tickets. They gave me the two blue tickets, I skipped back to the office and proceeded to get nothing done for the next 2.5 days.

Now, over those few days, several people remarked to me that Bruce Springsteen is a singer-songwriter, and a brilliant one, sure, but he should keep his political views to himself. Put yer harmonica where yer politics is, they say. Hogwash, I say. Here’s a beloved public figure who has an incredible opportunity to use his power and persuasion to support the cause he believes in. Turns out he actually called up the Obama office and said, “I got this guitar here. Let me play it on your behalf.”

As my Dad says, “Mar, you gotta be fully actualized.” We should all be out there, strumming whatever instruments we can to get Barack Obama elected.

Enough with the preamble. The Man was unbelievable. He started out with “The Promised Land,” a 70s classic about the redemption of the working class. Good way to start.

And here it is in full (special thanks to my 6’7″ companion):

He also played “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” “Thunder Road” (sung to some very special Mary somewhere), “Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” “The Rising,” “No Surrender” (John Kerry’s campaign theme song) and “This Land is Your Land” (during which the 5 obnoxious UD students next to me gabbed throughout about how they “had to” sing that song (a Guthrie classic!) every morning in 3rd grade, which for them was 3 years ago. Shaddap!!! This is Springsteen.)

Now these were all great moments. But the best was yet to come.

After the show, we waited outside Bruce’s bus for about 20 minutes, peering around for any sign of New Jerseyness from behind a gate that looked more and more jumpable with every passing minute. Rawle noticed a humongo, black Navigator with Jersey plates and remarked that that would be Bruce’s getaway car. Well that Rawle’s pretty smart, because suddenly, there was The Man grabbing shotty and driving away to our neighbor to the North.

And as he wheeled past us, I jumped up and down a few times and screamed “Bruuuuce!” like it was Beatlemania. He looked over at me and gave me his underbite smile, then pointed right at me. Right at me. And it looked like this:

Bruce finally meets the Mary he's been singing about for 35 years.

Bruce finally meets his Mary

Well I have to go to the Linc now. Iggles call. But Bruce, if you’re out there Googling yourself and you find this, thanks for visiting my city, your “home away from home.” Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.