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.
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.