Friday, April 5, 2013

"Falling Down 2: The FGR Story"

When trying to pinpoint when my anger management issues started, it is probably helpful to consider that my first favorite athlete was John McEnroe and it wasn't because I liked the way he acted on the court . . . it was because I understood why he acted the way he did on the court. This clip from Wimbledon in 1981 shows McEnroe at what was probably the peak of his volatility. After that outburst, everyone said that he would never win tennis' biggest tournament until he got himself under control, especially considering his main rival at the time was the calm, cool and collected Bjorn Borg. I remember thinking that they were wrong. The ONLY way he could win was by periodically unloading that angst and then using the residual heat to motivate himself. He beat Borg in the finals that year for the first of the three Wimbledon titles he would win over a four year span proving that you could be a raging hot head and still be good at a finesse sport like tennis.* It made perfect sense to me. (Hold that thought).

Hey do me a favor and hit me in
the skull with that when you're done.
Falling Down is a 1993 classic movie starring Michael Douglas as William Foster, "an unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society who begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them" (description courtesy of I'm frankly surprised that it hasn't been remade once per decade incorporating updated sources of annoyance. You could make a 2013 version based entirely on a guy who goes over the edge and starts exacting punishment on annoying cell phone users and the people responsible for the painful Lowes commercial where the guys are high-fiving and doing touchdown dances while building a deck. (Hold that thought too).

That brings us to this. I'm not sure exactly when last weekend turned into my own personal Falling Down sequel. Maybe it was on Friday morning when I played golf and had what seemed like 42 putts and then went home, turned on the television and watched my pick of the week, Hunter Mahan, half-assedly gag a two footer that basically sealed his missed cut fate. Or maybe it started the night before when we went out to dinner and our waitress seemed to be playing a game called, "let's not write anything down and just let the cook guess what they ordered."  

All I know is that by Saturday morning it was on like Donkey Kong because as the FGK's and I were exiting the FGR compound through the rarely used back gate, I noticed a hose hanging over my fence which, upon further inspection, turned-out to be pumping water from my neighbor's pool into my backyard. This actually came as no surprise as these particular neighbors are what I like to call "assholes." Now ten years and three kids ago, I almost surely would have cut the hose in half and then knocked on the assholes' door to return the severed part adding something like, "I found this in my yard and I think it's yours . . . you're welcome." But considering that I had the FGK's in tow, I just threw the hose back over the fence and moved on. The level of pride I felt for not turning the situation into a full blown border war is probably a sad comment on the past and present state of my psyche.

"Hey Dykstra . . . I think
you dropped something."
About an hour later, I was at the local high school watching a lacrosse game against some prep school from Philadelphia when a Coke can rolled down the steps and landed at my feet. (No surprise there as we were sitting in the visitor's section and, as I said, the other team was from Philly). A few minutes later, I got up to throw my hamburger wrapper away and picked-up the can. As I was heading-up the steps, the person to whom said can obviously belonged but who never made any effort to pick it up half-heartedly put his hand-out and said "thanks." Not wanting to give him the satisfaction, I gave him a disapproving look and said, "that's ok, I got it." I'm not sure what happened after that but I assume he went back to Philly, ate at a diner, got in a fight and passed-out fully clothed on his parents' couch while holding a bag of Funyuns.** The rest of Saturday passed without further incident.

And then came Easter Sunday. Without going into detail, let's just say that it started about as well for the FGR as it did for the Florida Gators against Michigan. You know when I grab the Easter eggs and say "I'm going to hide the eggs" and no one volunteers to go with me, everyone recognizes that we are dealing with a "Contents Under Pressure: Handle with Care" holiday situation. (Turns-out that hiding Easter eggs can be very therapeutic). As far as I'm concerned, Easter is the one holiday that always comes up to bat down 5 runs in the bottom of the first because (a) it's already on a day you have off and (b) it starts in the morning and never seems to go anywhere. At least last year we had the final round of the Masters and I had an excuse to plant myself in front of the T.V. for five hours because I "had to" write the Masters Timeline. (That last sentence is really only in there to plug one of my personal favorite posts).  

By the time I got home around 3:00 p.m., the compilation of weekend encounters with the "assholes," the guy from Philly and the Easter bunny (we're just going to go ahead and make the rabbit the fall guy for the whole morning) had made me about as edgy as any character in the last hour of Reservoir Dogs (except the psychotic Mr. Blonde and fortunately, I hadn't reached that point . . . yet). I can generally be managed in one of two ways when in this condition: (1) inflamed with alcohol or (2) diffused with exercise. In yet another sign of my burgeoning maturity, I chose the latter so the FGW, FGK3 and I went to the gym.***

"I said I WILL BE hiding the eggs."
As expected, when we arrived there was only one other person there. I'd been on the bike for five minutes when FGK3 needed help with the laptop so I left my iPod conspicuously placed on the machine and walked the fifteen feet across the wide open gym to where she was sitting. (Starting to get an idea of where this is headed?) During that time, two more people entered, a middle-aged man and a teenage kid. In an effort to maintain some objectivity from this point forward, we'll refer to the middle-aged guy as "The Bigger Man."

While I was assisting FGK3 with the video, I could see The Bigger Man fussing around the bike that I had been using two minutes earlier but I couldn't tell what he was doing until I got back over there and discovered that he had taken the liberty of moving my iPod over to the adjacent recumbent bike.*** Now I have convinced myself that I would have just moved-on if, as I was removing my iPod and glaring at him, The Bigger Man would have just said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, were you still using this?" But he didn't which led to the following exchange (note that FGK3 was wearing headphones throughout this part of the story):

"Now go get on that
f---ing elliptical."
FGR: "I was still using that."

TBM: (Unapologetically) "Oh I didn't know if you were coming back."

FGR: (Pointing to where I was sitting) "I was right over there."

TBM: "Well if it's that big a deal to you . . ."

FGR: "Forget it."

(And then I was about half way across the gym when I couldn't resist pulling a Billy Batts).


(And now it was on).


(And now it was really on).

"You know we're living in a society!!!"

(I may have have crossed the line there).



And then I walked over and punched him right in the face.*****

And that's where it ended. (If you want to see the whole episode played-out as two minutes of gripping television drama, click here). I was fueled by the exchange and what was going to be a somewhat half-assed bike ride turned into a 25 minute hardcore run looking straight ahead as The Bigger Man was somewhere behind me over my left shoulder (fortunately, I had the FGW watching my back). By the time I was done, he was gone (some workout). Having witnessed the entire exchange, the FGW would later comment that I tend to make my life far too difficult and she's probably right especially when you consider that, by the time we resolved our dispute, The Bigger Man and I had reached a settlement where neither one of us ended-up riding the bike. However, when all was said and done, I had the pleasure of a good venting followed by an invigorating workout and by Sunday night I was in a great mood so who's to say? Maybe I know exactly what I'm doing.

Email the FGR


* To be fair, a slightly more mature and mellow McEnroe would play the greatest tennis match I ever saw in the 1984 Wimbledon Final when he simply eviscerated Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Back then, if you loved McEnroe, you hated Connors and they appeared to hate each other (check-out the post match handshake) so this two hour beatdown was very satisfying to watch. (If you loved tennis during that era, check-out just a few seconds of this clip and be reminded of how cool it was to wake-up on those July Sunday mornings to watch these classic matches).   

** Hey, don't look at me. I learned everything I know about Philadelphia from one trip to the Vet for a Cowboys-Eagles game and by watching Silver Linings Playbook (a B- movie that I have a feeling will get bumped to a B+ on the re-watchablitiy scale).

*** A couple of background items that will be key to the next part of the story: (1) It's a country club gym that is usually empty on the weekend afternoons and (2) people often bring their kids who can sit and watch a movie or play video games while their parents work-out. Is it exemplary parenting? No. Do sacrifices sometimes have to be made? Yes. And, for the good of the family as a whole, this was one of those times.

*** A recumbent bike is basically a cross between a stationary bike and a Lay-Z-Boy and is a great form of exercise if you're looking to burn about as many calories as you would during a game of Jenga.

***** Just kidding.

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