Saturday, July 23, 2011

What Movie Should We See Tonight?

My mind matched that weird haze that comes after stepping out of the movie theater into the pre-sunset haze (my apologies to the great S. E Hinton). I had just experienced what was to date the single worst movie I'd ever seen. The worst!

I've walked out of movies before-to hell with my $9.50! I've slept through movies before (shout out to Revenge of the Sith). I've skewered movies while in the theater, annoying a girlfriend and probably five people around me ("Come ON! That was obviously a rip-off of The Bourne Identity!) in doing my best contemporary "Mystery Science Theater 3000" impression. But this movie trumped them all in terribleness.

While I must admit that I see very few movies-a fact my friends rib me about-I believe that my voice still must be heard in the wilderness, trumpeting the horrid two hours and thirty-six minutes that was "Transformers III."

The movie was the consensus pick of my basketball team, a wholesome team activity for the first night of a three-day out-of-town tournament. I was more than happy to dodge Kevin James and his "Zookeeper," and while I didn't expect to get great enjoyment out of "Transformers III," I figured I could sacrifice for the team and it couldn't be THAT bad.

It was that bad. Five minutes into the movie, I knew that this was going to be a long evening. The 3d glasses provided gave me a headache. The Dolby Surround Sound made it doubly worse. The plot was already unnecessarily complicated and trite. Twenty minutes in and I thought about slipping out for an extended and indefinite "break." One of the parent chaperones fell asleep about ten minutes into the movie, and man, how I envied him! The other parent chaperone asked semi-earnestly, about halfway through the movie, "So, the plot is basically a good versus evil setup?"

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the shifting allegiances between automobiles that transform into fighters. The Transformers have come to Earth to take over the planet or else defend the planet.

Or something. Throw in a half-assed love story and you've got a movie that at two hours and thirty-five minutes is two hours and thirty-five minutes too long.

After the movie mercifully ended, I was joined by my ten players, the great majority of them giddy over the hot new love interest, the action scenes, an obscure quip.

Said my starting center, "Man, I told you the movie was dope!"

Half kidding, he added, "Coach, can we watch it again tomorrow night?"

The expectant pairs of eyes burned into my peripheral vision confirmed the fact that the great majority of the guys-maybe all the guys-loved this movie.

Never have I felt so old in a movie theater.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Still Ballin

"I got next," I said, strutting out onto the main courts at the local university rec center. My confidence was feigned, my strut probably overexaggerated, my tone surely too clipped and smarmy. I stepped out on the court between games, promptly airballed two long jump shots, and shook my head with a sneer, making it obvious to any viewer that those two shots were anomalies, somehow not worthy of a baller like myself.
My facade reversed itself this time, as I played nonchalant when I was really scoffing inside. This was in response to my new teammate telling me, with the confidence of a , that the guy I'd be guarding was "real quick, so be careful with him, make him shoot."
I thought to myself that I could handle him, that I'd always wanted to guard the quickest player on the other team, that I was a lockdown defender.
Was. Maybe. The haze of memory tells me that I was once a shutdown defender, the Deion Sanders of youth basketball. Gary Payton had nothing on me. Maybe.
The game was not bad, as I find myself writing about the first game in (insert time period here) _______ months. Again. It has been a few months since the students/faculty game, and I graced the court for the first time since, save for a few three minute bursts when practicing with my players.
The guy I guarded was very quick, did have a good handle. By my count, he got to the basket three times; the first was helped by me getting screened, I told myself. The second was a fast break where he got me on my heels, then took it right by me, using his right hand only. The third time was the most frustrating, as I had him pigeonholed as a right-hand only dribbler, but he crossed me over and left me in his wake on his way to the hoop for a layup.
There may not be anything more humiliating in basketball than getting left behind in an isolated situation, going mano a mano and losing.
My team won easily, 11-6, with me making the game-clincher, a running layup off a great pass. I made three baskets-the game-clincher, a putback off a teammate's missed shot, and a pull-up jumper from the right elbow.
This pull-up was the shot that I'll remember most, as it was right after I'd gotten abused by the man I was guarding, leading to his easy layup. I called for the ball, settled into my favorite move, a la former NBA great Kevin Johnson. This was a move I practiced to no end as a young player, in which I go between my legs from right hand to left hand, delay for a split second to freeze the defender, and then rapidly continue to my left. The move was executed perfectly, giving me the step on my defender (Payback, baby! This is Dominique and Larry Bird in the '86 playoffs!). A defender stepped out to cut off my route to the hoop, so I pulled up for the jumper...all net!
My right hand shot up in a Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan fist pump. Did I possibly get a bit of a screen that allowed me to leave my defender in my dust? Maybe...
Rewind to a week ago. My high school team won by two points, the game saved by my center, who blocked a possible game-tying layup at the buzzer. As he manaically jumped up and down in place, I said to him, quietly, "Act like you've been there before."
Fist pumping like Michael Jordan and Snooki's lovechild? Maybe I oughta take my own advice...

Road Trippin

It was a late Friday afternoon about five years ago when I called my friend and pitched the idea of a weekend trip to Las Vegas. I was a one hour flight from Vegas, and he was a three hour flight away.
"Next weekend?" he asked.
"No, today," I replied.
There was a pause on the other end. "Yeah, okay. I'll meet you at the Vegas airport at 10."
I found out later that he hadn't had time to go back to his apartment after my phone call, that he'd gone straight from work to the airport, and that his "luggage" consisted of a pair of athletic shorts, tennis shoes, and a workout t-shirt that happened to be in his car's trunk. Toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant-no prob, these things could all be bought cheap in Vegas, right?
It's different when you travel as a 30 year old. The days of trips--to Vegas, to Lake Tahoe, to New York--planned on whims, and without the slightest traces of practicality, are gone. Trips are planned weeks, months in advance, the three days of vacation planned to the most minute details months before, a gaggle of e-mail exchanges setting up meal coverage, how much each person will owe (down to the cents), and who will room with who.
A month from now, we will be celebrating my cousin's thirty-third birthday at a lakeside cabin owned by a friend's family. For some reason, my cousin has never had any sort of big celebration for the traditional benchmarks--twenty-one, twenty-five, thirty--but he wants to do it up big for his thirty-third (blame the Catholic in him, perhaps). The warnings started a few months back, first in the form of a "Save the Dates" e-mail, then in Evite form a few weeks later.
Ah, the Evite, that acid-test of age and youth. For the twenty-five year-old crowd, the Evite is nothing more than a sounding board for new comedy material ("It's your twenty-fifth birthday? Does it still count as twenty-five if you only remember seventeen of them?). The thirty and over set, however, uses it as an itinerary, a Rolodex ("Hey, Matt, send me your new number when you have a chance."), and a chat room ("Sweetie, are we free that weekend, or is that the weekend your parents will be in town?).
The younger set fills up the "Maybe" column with impunity (Depends on how hungover I'll be that morning!), while the older set keeps the "Yes" and "No" columns full. The older set is planned ahead months ahead, friends' weddings and business trips taking up the weekend space that used to be left free for spontaneity; the younger group's "Yes" and "No" responses are half the time wrong.
My cousin, though unmarried, is in a serious relationship (I actually wouldn't be surprised if he popped The Question on this birthday weekend), making him a little late to the game, but at least in the same arena as most of his guests. These guests have made the biggest topic on the e-mail chain about who is bringing kids and who is bringing dogs.
Dogs and kids, those stalwarts of domesticity. Five years back, the idea of sharing a room with a dog would have been ridiculed, and plus, we'd barely be at the cabin anyway...there were casinos to visit, beach parties to crash, bars to invade.
I laughed out loud as I sat at my computer the other day. My cousin's best friend from childhood e-mailed to test the waters for bringing a board game. This was the same board game that led to a raucous night of drinking games some years back between my cousin and his friends. Now, this e-mail contained a link to the board game's rules, as set by the manufacturer.
Years back, the rules were open to interpretation. Now?
The rules are the rules.