ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Guys

I just read this good book called "Ten On Sunday", by a former TV writer named Alan Eisenstock.

The book isn't really about writing, or about TV.

It's about the informal basketball games that Alan and his friends started playing every Sunday in the driveway of his Santa Monica house, that for five years (until Alan finally moved) turned into a hugely important thing in these guys' lives.

They scheduled their weeks around it, they even scheduled their vacations around it. Doctors, lawyers, contractors, teachers, writers, just getting together to play a little hoop, eat some bagels, chat, and eventually even get to know and care about each other.

I get this. And I wish I could have played in it.

Because I never really get to hang out with guys any more.

When I was a kid on Long Island, I hung out with the guys all the time, but when I was a kid -- and a teen -- it was easy, because time was all we seemed to have.

I was lucky enough to grow up with a huge empty lot behind me house, which we kept clean and mowed, and where we played softball. The lot was long and rectangular, so we learned not to pull the ball, but it was just the right size for a bunch of kids knocking a ball. We could even get away with playing pitcher-shortstop-outfielder.

My dad used to play softball with us all the time, too. I guess we were his guys. It would be anywhere from 3-7 kids (and eventually teens) and my dad, and it was great, because he wasn't a big jock, but he could hold his own with us.

No one else's dad ever played. Ever.

I also played board games with the guys. Stratego. Risk. Strat-o-Matic Baseball.

Poker.

In high school, there was a group of guys I even regularly played bridge with. We'd drink wine coolers and shoot the shit. We weren't as nerdy as you might have thought, either.

Okay, maybe I was.

After college, in New York, there were still semi-regular poker games (which my dad joined too, naturally). And some of the guys would get together to knock a softball around, or a whiffle ball; we set up a makeshift field in the back, with an overturned wheelbarrow to mark the strike zone.

But then we got older. You lose the free time. People move; you move. I lived in Manhattan. My buddy Kevin moved up to Albany, then down to North Carolina.

For a while, in our late 20s/early 30s, me and my pal-since-3rd-grade Joe would still go down there to see Kevin. Play some golf (I was bad, while the courses had lakes - bad combo), play some Strat-o-Matic, play some Magic: The Gathering (it was a phase, we got over it). Beer and pizza, Sportscenter playing on loop on the TV.

Then Kevin got married, and he had less time. I moved out to Los Angeles, and suddenly that's far. And I see the guys less and less.

Poker games if/when I visit my folks at Christmas. Everyone came out for my wedding 6 years ago, and we played some cards then. Even got in a round of golf. Everyone to New York 17 months ago for Joe's wedding; played some poker then, too.

Nickel-dime-quarter. It's not about the money, it's about the guys.

But now the poker games in New York go on without me. Out here we play poker too, but the wives and other women jump in. It's fun, don't get me wrong.

But it's not a guy thing.

The closest I came to hanging out with the guys here in California was 4 years ago, when my brother-in-law Steve got me to join his Saturday softball team. Bunch of guys in their 20s/30s, playing on a field in Glendale.

I was the old guy; they batted me down at the bottom of the order, and made me play catcher, which in that league meant standing 10 feet behind the plate and picking up the pitch on the third bounce.

Still, it was fun. It's also the best time I've ever had with my brother-in-law, who I really have nothing in common with.

Except, on that field, we were guys together.

And when that first season was over, damned if I didn't have the second-highest batting average on the team, albeit mostly dinkers and dunkers over the infield.

Saturdays went on for a while, then shifted to Wednesdays, and then the team fell apart, as teams usually do.

And now I only see Steve at family birthdays and holidays.

I'm older now, but I don't feel old. Still, there never seems to be any time. And there never seem to be any guys. I'm cursed with two lonely professions -- I'm a reader, and I'm a writer.

So I play poker now and again, with the ladies. Went to a great Oscar party the other day; met a lot of nice people.

But there's just something different about hanging out with the guys.

And that book made me nostalgic about something I just don't have in my life any more, and I'm not really sure how to get back.

21 Comments:

At 2:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would mention fight club, but I'm not allowed to talk about it. ;)

 
At 4:09 AM, Blogger Konrad West said...

LOL.

 
At 5:10 AM, Blogger Brett said...

Good luck on that, as there will be difficulties... but I'll blather about that on my own dime (for a change).

;-)
.
.
.
brevity is the soul of brevity B

 
At 5:43 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Damn Scott. I hear you. You stirred some things within me. I do miss the guys, and sometimes I wish I could get that back.

I don't have any guys to hang with any more. I have a few friends, and when we hang it is usually with our wives along.

And while our wives are our soul mates, the people we would most like to be with, they are not guys. They can't be guys.

A guy is someone you don't have to watch your mouth around, and I'm not talking about cursing. And I don't know that a guy HAS to be male, but that is the only guy I've ever known. If you are a woman, I suspect that your guys would most likely be female.

But I don't know how much women need to have guys or what.

I define a guy as someone you can be around where your inner voice disappears. That inner censorship that goes on when you talk to people.

Good post Scott.

The guys....

Damn.

 
At 6:15 AM, Blogger Tom said...

See, you had your chance with Carradine and didn't take it. He's got a bunch of brothers, you'd have been set for a good long while.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger Naila J. said...

I've got a suggestion, fairly straightforward, but still, uber tough to carry through.

Why don't you take the initiative? Think some activity up... the location, time... then invite a bunch of guys to join you.

Don't peg it as a guy's night, or their wives might complain they don't spend enough time with them. But pick a guys only type activity or league.

But figure out a day when those interested can get together, and do it! It doesn't have to be every week. People are busy, and so are you. Every second week is fine, even every month, to start off.

Trust me. There's no harm in trying.

 
At 8:39 AM, Blogger Webs said...

You can never quit Strat-o-Matic.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Julie O. said...

Thanks, Scott. You exacerbated my penis envy.

To answer Tom's question, I've been one of the guys often enough to know that girlfriends aren't nearly as fun. (Probably why I don't have many...)

Unfortunately, things like jobs and breasts and families make being one of the guys... awkward. Which flies in the face of everything it means to be one of the guys.

So, I'm not. And it sucks.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger writergurl said...

Not a guy, don't wanna be a guy, and don't want to join in your reindeer games. BUT. I can and do feel your melancholy about not having your own "guys" to hang with.

You know, if you took that feeling and expanded it into a script, you just might have something there. What would a guy do to keep his "guys" intact? How far would he go? What would he risk?

As for not having guys to hang with... get off your can, join a bowling league, take a golf lesson, join a basketball league... do something! I hope you find your "guys" quickly.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

You could join one of those new fangled urban gangs.

Lots of bonding going on there. I hear the Cryps are rushing.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Naila -- You need to understand something about guys: you need to make it easy for them. Get a bunch of guys to agree on a time to do something? Rarely happens. No one has time.

Host a weekly basketball game in your driveway, where people can come if they want? Guys will find time.

(and ironically, when the writer moved to a place without much of a driveway, the game pretty much fell apart. They tried to play in a park, or at a gym, but it wasn't the same).

Unfortunately, I don't have a driveway.

Anonymous -- Fight Club I'm into. Though the guy punching himself creeps me out.

Thomas -- I'm an autumn. Neither red nor blue work.

The irony is that the closest thing I have to hanging with the guys is the chatroom over at The Artful Writer, which is sort of like the bar at Cheers. You can drop by whenever you want, everyone knows your name, and they yell it loudly when you come in. And even the girls, like Julie, are one of the guys.

I guess it'll just have to do.

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Robert Hogan said...

I hear ya Scott. My guys and I used to be the same way...poker, sports, road trips, Magic, bullshiting. Then I gave up smoke and things went to hell. They didn't want me around if I wasn't toking with them. My guys went on without me. The older you get the harder it is to find guys anymore.

Rob

 
At 4:16 PM, Blogger Naila J. said...

@Scott I totally meant what you said.
lol

I meant that you figure out what time they're available, and conviniently decide to have a basketball game at that time... or something in that vein.

I usually plan a guy's night... for my boyfriend. I figure out when ppl are available, tell them about said activity, and then, make them meet.
:P

 
At 5:39 PM, Blogger Rene said...

Reading this reminded me a lot of old friends that I've grown up with and how much I miss them. What's most depressing is the lackluster effort we've all made to stay in touch as of late.

 
At 5:58 PM, Blogger suzbays said...

You know, you had a lot of years where you did get to hang with the guys. You're in a different phase of your life and while you may be nostalgic about the old days, you seem to have some pretty good ones now.

Susan
p.s., I take exception to the 'jumping in' comment. Sheesh.

 
At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Phillip said...

Last year I played softball with a bunch of guys from work. It was a real struggle to get 10 guys to show up every week and we only lasted two seasons but damn it was fun.

A few times a year a group of us will get together at a friend's computer shop bust out the BBQ, cigars and tequila and play old PC games (Starcraft mostly). It's fun but I still miss playing softball.

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

You done made me think back, too. Sniffle, sniffle.

I miss the hell out of those old days, hanging out w/ my boys, laughing it up, getting drunk playing Madden Football on the Sega Genesis (hey i was never a playa).

But guys can have a very strong bond. They can confide in each other, we were always there for each other, whether for our buddy who was dumped by his girl, or burying a body to conceal evidence... oh, perhaps I've said too much.

I know most of my friends have moved on (or simply moved) but what's cool is that I know even though years have passed, if we all got together to hang out we could and it would be just like it was back in the day.

 
At 12:08 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Sega Genesis is the only game system I have ever owned (though it's long gone now). I had football, and that hockey game where the players fought, which they also played in "Swingers".

(See how everything comes back to movies?)

 
At 5:35 AM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

Reminds me of a bumper sticker:

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

 
At 6:06 AM, Blogger Alicia said...

If it's any consolation, time does not discriminate. Its boundaries are unrelenting as we try to pack more and more into a 24-hour day. I'm sure most women would have the same gripe about lack of time to spend with their girlfriends. Sacrifices have to made and priorities given. Sadly the time spent with the guys/girls gets trumped by work, spouses, children, yardwork, taxes, science projects, birthday parties...

Fact of life. Rest assured - you are not alone.

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger William said...

I've been trying to figure this one out for a long time. After college all my friends fled New York. I'm one of the only ones who stayed. All my real close friends are in LA, Seattle, etc. I can't just call them up and say let's get a beer. When I do see them it's usually at a funeral or a wedding or they are only in for one day and they have to make the rounds where it's not about hanging out, it's about being somewhere.

I felt this pang New Year's Eve. I was invited to a friend's new house by him and his wife. My girlfriend and I were joined by another old friend and his wife. As the night went on I saw the changes in the old friend. He's different, I mean 180 different. That's fine but when I looked at him I realized any time we spent together, which was a lot, college, traveling overseas, a lot of growing, is now gone. Not "it's the past" gone, just not even acknowledged. Like I just met this person for the first time that night. It made me sad because I felt this guy who I shared a close friendship with didn't even really acknowledge our friendship.

Great, now we're all depressed.

 

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