Monday, March 15, 2010

Hearts, Moons, Stars, Bird Shit ("Today, I Am The Luckiest Boy In The World.")

*This was a piece I wrote from a few years ago which never made it into my first zine, which I just stumbled across and still enjoy. It certainly is that time of year too:

Luck is something that perhaps many people take for granted and can find in the most serendipitous places while actively seeking it out. I would believe that there were at least a few people who made it off of the bridge in Minneapolis alive with at least a few losing lottery tickets in their glove compartment. I would also be willing to wager similar odds (Feeling lucky?) on victims of shark attacks, as I am now gearing up for the real world after being lost in " Shark Week."

And who would know better than me? I am the luckiest person in the world.

You see, I have been shit on by birds 3 times within the last year. 3 times. How many people even have the great fortune of having even ONE bird shit on them? ( I'm not sure if it counts if you work on coprophiliac films in England, where you can have "byrds" shit on you all the live long day. But I will look into it. ) Most recently I was on the phone outside of work in Downtown Boston. I have a habit of lightly pacing back and forth while on the phone. As I had subconsciously shifted over a couple steps, I heard a very loud, almost cartoonish, fartish splatter. (As I was retelling this story earlier, I was asked if the bird or birds had actually been farting while relieving themselves. Truth of the matter is, if that were the case I wouldn't even be writing this, as I would still be rolling around the floor laughing until my lungs were filled with merriment and tuberculosis. Its a much better way of getting a highly infectious death sentence, than by some dreary, glum, stuffy, boring coughing Atlanta lawyer on an airplane. ) I quickly glanced over next to me and saw two huge fresh splatters of bird dung inches away from me. I laughed up at the heavens. "Finally", I thought, "the good luck that I have been waiting for from the last time I landed an unwitting cameo role in an Avian shit porn film. has come to the form of more bird shit."

But still I couldn't help but feel mildly relieved. That was after I had paraded myself back into the office proclaiming my good luck. I was ready to go outside and outline the scene in chalk to preserve it as some sort of dullard life lesson; a reminder that no matter where you go, you were never safe. But I didn't think outlining white globs in white was necessary, so I trudged back onto my route.

"Those stupid birds. Thought they were really going to roll up on me and just shit all over me. Puh-leeeeze" I almost felt like I should have had a Tupac Shakur like swagger at this point, a survivor from previous attempts. I could see myself being overly cocky, strutting, swaggering and flipping off and spitting at every bird I saw, with my arms stretched out saying "What?! What?!" In a threatening manner followed by mocking bird calls. "Stupid dumb birds trying to ruin my day." As I was going to grab a pen from my pocket, that's when..actually, I don't know if this is really where my luck begins or ends anymore. I should maybe end up getting "Live By The Dung. Die By The Dung" tattooed across my belly because that was when I saw I had in fact been hit near the side of my gut with an unforseen glob of bird shit. I was now too far away from the office to change my shirt and had no lighter to immolate myself with on Atlantic Ave. Remembering how massive the splatters were that hit the street, I did an ok job of consoling myself that I had only been hit with remnants of ass shrapnel, and was lucky (I think) that it wasn't worse. This also just had my brain wandering more (I think its called" thrice hit- bird shit- induced psychosis") to unlucky times, and it brought me back to the darkest dredge of human existence.

Little League.

Awkward and active are just two words that don't fit in for me. There were and are alot of activities I just didn't fit into, and Little League was no exception. I landed on The White Sox, the team that were undisputed champions a solid 8 years in a row. It was like FDR coaching the Boston Celtics of The 1960's out of a pot of gold under a rainbow. I was like the bastard son of Ray Finkle and Billy Buckner with a little league contract on the back of Babe Ruth's papers trading him from Boston to New York and by the end of my first season we were dead dead last place. I can recall many a time being the last batter up with the hope of a win for the team resting on my shaky little shoulders bearing the dead weight of a timid 80 lb frame. I can also recall striking out each and every time. That is if I wasn't purposely struck in the back, head, arms or legs by a fast ball thrown by older bullies from the neighborhood, or hulking 14 year old Dominican phenoms, who lied about their ages and said they were 10-12 years old. I am hoping that when you die you do get to see your life in an instant replay, because I would really like to see both benches laughing mercilessly at me, as I would wince in pain and hobble by limp body to first base. But at least one aspect always stayed the same. No matter if I struck out swinging at something 50 feet away from the plate out of fear, or if I had been knocked to the ground by a fast ball to the kidneys, I was always guaranteed to hear my nickname "John Poli-strike out" echoing from behind me, and I was always guaranteed to be held down and beaten by my own team for losing the game. All while my alcoholic coach, clad in what would today be an ironic Will Ferrell get up of thick moustache, aviator glasses with mesh cap, sleeveless tight black shirt and cut off too too short shorts looked the other way,or was just drinking?

This rookie took all the could take and though I didn't give a Lou Gehrig "I am the luckiest boy in the world" speech at Killelea Field on Parker Hill Ave, I quietly retired at the end of the season. Or so I thought. As next spring would roll around and baseball fever again gripped the lives of Mission Hills youth, I would duck out of sign ups until Mrs. Curran who held the trifecta of being mother to my best All Star Best friends growing up, in charge of Little League sign ups and secretary at Mission Grammar School on St Alphonsus would find me in the hallways and say "Hey John, I didn't see your name on the Little League Registration yet, did you miss the sign ups?" I was too timid, shy and afraid to say I just wanted to live, and would find myself hesitantly signing on the dotted line like I had a young hand full of Lou Gehrig's Disease. This went on for 2 more years. Many strikeouts followed, many more fastballs peppered my body and my self esteem. Even more cries of "Policastro you suck!" and "You're dead if you lose the game again." Too many times I was trying to bury myself in deep right field praying the ball would never come to me, only to have it come to me right in time for me to hide my face under the glove and drop the ball, or humorously enough, bean me on the head. Another quiet retirement followed by reluctant sign ups.

My luck finally changed for me in my last year in one of the final games. Still dead last with no chance of advancing I took to the batters box to face off with a 13 year old pitching phenom, which I was excited about because it just meant I was going to be able to strike out quicker than usual and go back to sulking on the bench. But then the most unexpected thing happened. As the opposing teams coach, who sounded like he had gotten his tongue stuck in a paper shredded full of rum and bumble bees was cryin out "Go on Thluggah thee what you can do....nevamind, hes jutht lookin for the walk......jutht lookin for the walk" I took a swing and I hit the ball! I had connected! Roughly three years without a hit and I had finally done it! I saw it headed towards short stop and felt it was going to be caught quick for an out, but I excitedly ran for first base for the first time ever. As I watched, I noticed the shortstop hadn't really been paying attention, as it was John Poli-Strike out at bat anyway. The ball reached him but he hadn't been ready, fumbled it in between his hand and glove, and then lost it into the dirt. I had just gotten some sort of good luck bestowed on me and received my first hit in Little League. To make it an even sweeter moment for me, he was frustrated for bobbling it and hurriedly threw to first base, but it went soaring over the first baseman's head and I had such adrenaline surging through me that I didn't even stop and went running for second, where I safely landed. I remember one of the assistant coaches cheering me on and giving me a thumbs up screaming from across the field: "You did it! And you flew too! " It made me feel really good, so good that I wasn't too bothered when my usual hecklers found a new outlet to mock me in the way I ran like a girl and would be almost kicking my own ass as I frantically hustled along.

Later on in the game, I was sitting on the benches, replaying that moment over and over again, yet somewhat bummed that my parents weren't there to have seen it or document it. But my little league career wasn't really one to brag about. The boasting of your children's successes to others via home movies wouldn't have sounded as gleeful if it was "Oh, and here's our John striking out again, but almost hitting the ball...oh, oh and wait here, here you can see his teammate trip him when he comes back into the dugout! See how he learned to fall into the fence instead of on his face?! That's our lil' All Star!"

Soon after a batter for the opposing team popped up a foul ball headed our way in the dugout. "Heads up everyone! Heads up comin' our way!' as was the norm to say. I got off of the bench and moved down a few feet to the left, foolishly eyeing the motion of the coaches hand from across the dugout. As soon as I saw his face light up towards me, I'm sure I was thinking "Yeah.....looking for the walk, huh, asshole? Did you see that double?! Did you!?" but he was actually saying "Watch out!" and before I knew it, I got cracked in the head with the baseball and it sent me crashing back down to the bench. It also sent up uproarious laughter among both sides of the field. Who else would move out of the way of a ball only to get hit by it? I suppose the same kid who a few years later would catch footballs and basketballs off the back of my head in freshman gym, and most certainly the same kid who would manage to even later get shit on by birds three years in a row.

I thankfully was able to leave Little League behind after that season, as I was too old, and became more attuned to writing , listening to music and learning the guitar, essentially just being a hermit. But to prove that I still held that shred of luck, the first year without me my team was back at the Number 1 spot.

What luck.

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