"Whoooooaaaaah." This from KFAN TV’s young assistant sales manager when Kuni Noyori was introduced at Jewel’s sales meeting. He had wisely frozen up, then shut up, when he felt the icy stare from general manager Derek Dakine. Dakine wanted to bear-hug Kuni but maintained decorum, took an arm, pecked her cheek, then presented her to the group. Yes, she was to play lead role in the coming cutaway promotion but the meeting would continue in sales shuck and jive mode, so Kuni soon melted away to make her way down to The Dawg seats.
"Yes!" It was Sammy. When she returned to the happy Throwback, her vermillion Versaces tickled him every which way. Bumper reached behind his new student to pass up Kuni’s purse. "Arigato," she replied. She sat back with a deep breath. She was nervous. She had hit a home run all right, but if Cole hadn’t hit one too, well...
Merrill Hodges paused when he saw Bumper Morgan chummed up to Vinny. He had to reach across Lynyrd Skynyrd to hand his son his lemonade then hand Bumper a mostly full cup of sloshing beer. He stepped toward Izzy, the seat Bumper had abandoned, convinced that up here in the special Dawg Throwbacks, one seat was as good as another. Wrong! Once he had settled in, he saw immediately that one was no where near as good as another. The long-haired rocker in front of him had blacked out every which way, his view of delicious Penny Platinum. Kuni had nodded hello when he sat, but that registered very little on the face of the fellow in the black shoes. This was the first time that Kuni noticed the sky blue tape.
Up in the Giants’ TV booth, Smoky Burgess and Al Michaels were hanging out with Kruk and Kuip. Smoky had clued in Michaels on Fanny’s scheme to blow young Vin Hodges away. Michaels had grinned when he heard the kid’s name. "Sounds like dad tried to cover both bases." Vin Hodges, of course, had been named for Merrill Hodges’ two favorite hall of fame baseball announcers.
"Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? "Then again, Smoky himself had been named after his dad’s favorite. Then Smoky told Al what Fanny had heard, the kid had known that virtually the whole world had been tuned into Michaels for any and all news right on through the aftershocks of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
"How old is this kid?"
"He reads a lot," grinned Smoky. "I suppose." When he told Michaels that Fanny would be returning to the booth near the game’s end, when the curfew for beer sales kicked in, Michaels himself began to scheme. Earlier that evening, Vin Scully had shared some details about a unique new twist he planned to mix in to his Dodger broadcasts.
"Whoa! He could shave the meat off a turkey! Giants announcer Mike Krukow had obviously been impressed with the accuracy of that last pitch.
"Yep. He’s throwing up good spliff tonight, partner," added Duane Kuiper."
Young Vin Hodges was throwing up spliff himself, primed now to announce poll results leading up to the "climactic culmination of our poll. Great response from one and all. We broadcast live tonight, from California. Consequently, its quite the norm to announce ongoing election results before everyone has had a chance to vote. Eh-eh."
"’Quite the norm?’ This kid sure ain’t talking to the Mike Tysons of the world." Izzy was not at all fond of the way Merrill Hodges ceaselessly rocked forward to whisper at Bumper, info and trivia that he wanted passed along to his son. He could hear the man’s appeals, but no way Bumper could know that with each whisper, Hodges had been stealing peeks of Miss Platinum and the best pair he had ever seen. Of course he hadn’t seen all that many pairs of bare shoulders.
"OK, let’s have at ’em. Sell the ball to Bonds and Cheaters? Twenty-eight percent. Sell it to the Hall? Thirty-three percent. Twenty percent said it would be more profitable to sell the ball that Bonds clouts to a third party. Fourteen percent say they would keep it. And five percent voted: ’throw it away, ‘undecided,’ ’other,’ or specific other things unmentionable to my family-friendly audience."
"Clout? Clout? Haven’t heard that call since Ike was in office." Izzy had awakened, alright.
"Ike who?" asked Johnny Pistol.
Phil Sage would wager that Pistol’s question was sincere.
"Undecided? Other? Are these votes coming from Jack London Hospital?" Jack and Char London’s ranch has been preserved as a county park and it abuts California’s Sonoma Development Center. Hence, Izzy’s highly questionable allusion.
"Bad taste, Izzy, poor form," said Sammy. "Just the same, when this poll ends, my money says that we’ll land on the cusp of yet another ’precipice.’"
Phil Sage wouldn’t wager against that.
Kuni Noyori had reached across Mr. Hodges to ask Bumper to guard her purse once more. He said sure. Then said, "hold on, let me give you a fiver for a draft. The Steam down here tastes like..."
"Don’t say it," urged Sammy.
"Like it rolled off Luther’s boot."
"Hey!" responded an indignant Phil. "He poached that line from Johnny Cash when he played before the cons at his San Quentin shows."
"And with ’ol Johnny’s own past," added Sammy, "even the most hardened prisoners at those San Quentin and Folsom shows felt a special kind of a kindred spirit toward him."
Not just there," said Izzy. "The Man in Black played prison shows all around the country, from Tennessee to Californ-eye-ay."
"And man, did those guys stamp and yell and whistle and all when he introduced June Carter Cash! Sang sweeter than she looked, if that was possible."
"Six of one, half dozen of another, Sammy," said Phil.
Kuni said sure, she’d fetch Bumper’s beer, then rose to head out. When she reached the mezzanine, she spied the Ladies, so she detoured from her return trip to the sky boxes.
Inside, hunched over the far sink, Kuni found Fanny Hill shaking to regain even a slight trace of composure. Kuni instinctively wrapped an arm around her to pull Fanny toward her when Fanny exploded with all the emotion of a spurned bride. Kuni squeezed tighter, then, after a while, she stroked Fanny’s hair then remembered she had a hankie in her purse. Then, she remembered she didn’t have her purse. True to form, the last paper towel in the entire restroom had long before been yanked. On her third attempt, Kuni was able to scavenge tissue from a cubicle. She told Fanny that she was on her way up to the sky boxes and, "you’re coming with me, okay?" Guilt dinged Fanny but she nodded, shoveled more water at her face, and told Kuni she’d get a grip by the time Kuni had finished her business. And she did, to some degree.
Outside now, Kuni grabbed Fanny’s hand to head up, when Fanny asked her to hold on one minute. "I have to tell the fill-in guy that my boss needs me up in the boxes."
"Thoutatheer. I thauntoutatheer. Thitenow. Thammit"
"Ain’t no way," giggled Will E. Brown’s nightshift nurse. "Ain’t no way you’re walking outathir. You won’t be calling for a thaxi anythime thoon, theether. Theven if you think you thood."
The half dozen shots of medicinal Patron had whacked Boomer Boudin and Rocky Ocean, so they sensibly grabbed menus and ambled toward an outside booth at the Grill. Fresh air. Just what the doctor ordered. But it was plumes far from fresh, that blew in off the clouds of exhaust from the stalled Friday traffic on the adjacent Nimitz Highway. The pair had taken scant notice.
TV 20’s Ken Sutherland had decided that another bag of Gilroy fries couldn’t hurt. Had he continued along the mezzanine walkway and not tacked hard to port to stand in line again, he would have sailed dead ahead toward the stately bow of his newest on-air competitor, who had been steadying the young lady that he had missed a dinner to come to have a heart to heart with.
Phil turned to ask Sammy, "You know who Bart Giammati was."
"Sure, he was the Commissioner of Baseball. The seventh, I think."
"He was president of Yale, before that," clarified Izzy.
"He wrote perhaps the greatest tribute ever to the sport of baseball." Phil sounded solemn when he said, "listen to his quote from some piece I came across called The Green Fields of the Mind."
"’ It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.’"
"We’re caught in a trap!" It was Elvis. "I can’t walk out." Dang it all. Moments ago, Bumper Morgan had just figured out that he should have given his phone to Kuni. He surely didn’t need it now, did he, now that his own hopes had tanked? "Because I love you too much baby. Why can’t you see..."
Lucky at all that Bumper had even heard The King singing Suspicious Minds, without doubt his best song from his "fat era." The ring song had been muffled. It was muffled because Bumper had stashed his cell phone inside the left front pocket of his Wranglers. Elvis was trying to squeeze out of a trap from a soiled pocket beneath Kuni’s handbag. Had she carried a bag the size Turbo carried, only one somewhat sad soul, Izzy the seat, beneath the bottom of Bumper Morgan, would’ve had a chance. And wouldn’t you know it, Izzy had snatched a snooze.
Bumper reached the phone, but by the time he could answer, Elvis had left the cell phone. He looked at the screen. "Connection terminated." Oh man, did I let Kuni down?
If so, not for long.
"I Won’t Get Fooled Again." This time The Who was coming through. Bumper flipped open to squelch Roger Daltrey and his mates to view his screen. "Connected." He put his cell to his ear. That’s when, for the first time, Bumper Morgan heard the voice of Cool Cole Kelly.
"... and for all you junior Giants out there, remember, KFAN TV will broadcast all the action live next month, from Williamsport, Pennsylvania."
"Xavier Nady takes a hack at a second strike. With that swing, he’d be cut by a Little League team."
"The kid’s gone over the top again," Sammy critiqued. "I warned one and all that he would when I first heard him."
"Strike three! Grab some pine, meat! Right down the middle, ya big palooka!"
"Definitely over the top," agreed Phil. "Pine. Palooka. He’s stealing from Kruk again."
"What exactly is pine?" No one responded to Johnny Pistola.
The guy certainly had the pipes of an old radio guy. Bumper would have chuckled were he not so down. He had remembered yet another of those ways you are supposed to be able to confirm that you are an aging deejay: you remember the name of the very first ’girl’ that was hired in your market as a deejay. Cool Cole Kelly sounded like the decent sort, Bumper concluded. He had asked him if he could pass along to Kuni any news. Kelly had sounded deflated, at least to Bumper, when he said, "no, I have to tell her myself."
Wonderful, thought Bumper. Apparently, Cole and Kuni wind up south of Kalamazoo and who knows, I might be stuck somewhere off the ice of Adak. And most assuredly stuck some sad somewhere if anything ever were to happen to Big Dawg Fast Eddie.
He rose, grabbed Kuni’s bag, tucked it in like a running back then told Merrill Hodges that he had to scoot. "If Kuni returns before me, tell her I headed up to look for her in that big suite that the Top Cheater owns. Head Cheater. Head Cheat’s suite. That’s the one."
Merrill Hodges looked as baffled as the O.J. jury.
Penny Platinum startled him almost to tears when she turned to shout over his khaki-clad shoulder to Bumper, "on your way back, if it’s no trouble, I’d give anything for a hot dog. Anything."
Kuni did not have her hand around Bumper’s real beer, rather, she had one hand on the brass handle and with her other, she steadied Fanny Hill and pulled the distraught beer vendor through the door that lead into Head Cheat’s sky box. No easy feat getting there, either. The sales meeting inside KFAN’s booth down the way had adjourned, so there was an army of salespeople spreading like ants. Ants with electronic devices in the air like antennas.
"We need never be ashamed of our tears," she said as she pushed shut the door with a kick.
"Dickens," said Fanny in a weak, trembling voice. "Great Expectations."
"Yes Fanny, and Mr. Dickens was prophetic."
"I’m working on it, Kuni." Fanny pulled up her posture, shook her pony tail and said, "point me toward the powder room. I’m ready to freshen up. I’ve no more tears left to cry."
"No more tears left to cry." From Charles Dickens to Lesley Gore, thought Kuni. Talk about juxtaposition. Then she felt a shiver. Right after Fanny had returned from giving the fill-in beer guy a heads up, Kuni had draped Ming’s Eddie Bauer vest around Fanny who was shaking like a kitten jumping to the lawn from inside an inflatable kiddie pool. Her vest had done double duty as a cover-up. Wasn’t every day when a woman waltzed into Head’s suite dressed in a pink and white-striped beer vendor blouse.
Tea. Tea, Kuni suddenly decided. Hot tea, no lemon, no sugar, no sugar substitute, no warmed milk. Hot tea. Only then did she realize that Bumper, her lifeline, was nowhere nearby. And he could only guess where she was. Yet, she couldn’t desert Fanny. She could have asked any one in the throng milling about the club to care for Fanny, but that thought hadn’t struck her.
Who is that girl? Jewel had seen Kuni enter and when that sort of familiar young lady slid away, she headed toward her. She knew that young woman from somewhere... hold those thoughts! A media maven like Jewel Goldman always keeps an eye out, working the room, and there he was! Alone! She spun suddenly to zero in on Head Cheat. Dead ahead was Head. He wanted details. And, she would have him all to herself.
When she strode up, he greeted her with this: "So, your little coup is now common knowledge. A consummated killer promotional deal."
"Take it to the bank, Head. We’ll have teasers on-air during tonight’s post game show."
"What about my killer promotion idea? When do we start? What’s this deal with the logo Polos?"
Jewel Goldman said, "It’s killer alright." But before presenting the promotion details, she had inadvertently risen an inch or two on her heels, then her heels fell back down into the lush orange and black Berber. When do we start? When do we start? Her gut twitched. It’s called an "assumptive close." Persistently and continually, steer the client into assuming that he has already committed to the deal. Then, dive right into the details. Subliminal, yes, but let there be no doubt, Jewel had hooked and landed Head Cheat.
"Aaaaah," it was a sigh of relief from Izzy. Merrill Hodges had risen and stepped down to return to his seat next to Vinny. Johnny Pistol didn’t mind. Sure, he thought the kid’s dad was plenty nerdy, but he was okay. Besides, he enjoyed hearing Vin’s remonstrations whenever elder Hodges leaned in to over-assist.
Izzy turned to Sammy, figuratively, "did you know Roger Clemens will turn 50 next month. That means," said Izzy, "that he..."
"Was born in 1962," Johnny Pistol finished Izzy’s revelation. "Just like you claim John Glenn was the first guy to orbit earth that year. Why don’t you count the Russian sputnicker with a name too long to fit into an English dictionary?"
"’Yuri’ should suffice," imparted Sammy.
Phil jumped in. "New York held two ticker-tape parades that year, one for Glenn, for whom was the other? Hint, that parade had been held to honor a notorious group of people, not just one."
"Bo Belinsky!" The Pistol’s guess was incorrect. Besides, despite his multiple, often awkward, and varied personalities, Belinsky still counted as only one person. Usually.
"Ever tell you what Bo Belinsky did accomplish in 1962, and what he told reporters afterward?"
"How many times must we suffer this Belinsky-ism?" muttered Sammy. "Ah. go ahead Izzy, lay it on us."
"He pitched a no-hitter that year."
Izzy ignored Sammy and plowed ahead. "In a media conference after the game, he told the press, ’if I had known I was gonna throw a no-hitter today, I would have gotten a haircut.’"
"Buzz, buzz, Brrrmm, brum," cut in The Pistol.
"Oh thee of so little concentration, my question awaits an answer."
"Spit it out," Johnny Pistol mugged.
Phil Sage ignored him.
"We give." Izzy sounded antsy, genuinely miffed, embarrassed, truth be told. Something had occurred in good ’ol ’62, that had gotten past him.
"The other parade was to honor the debut of the New York Mets."
"A parade after losing 120 games that season out of 162?" Sammy was baffled.
"The Mets received their parade before their scheduled home opener, which by the way, was rained out, which made it one of the few days that summer that the Mets didn’t lose."
"Uh, oh. Look out," sighed Sammy. "I think we are on the precipice of yet another, precipice."
"Barry Bonds will bat third this inning." Bumper Morgan would have told Vin Hodges to bring it down a notch, excite your listeners, not yourself. But Bumper was no longer sitting next to Vin, his dad was, and Mister Hodges appeared as excited as Michael Vick at a dogfight.
Sammy the Seat, self professed odds maker of all odds makers: "Ten to one he says it before Bonds reaches the on deck circle."
"Little rough on the kid, Sammy."
"Nah, Phil. The kid’s a winner. Baritone pipes to rival Gianluca Ginoble. In fact, I believe he stands on the ’precipice’ of a long and successful radio career."
"Press pass of what? Brrrmm, bum."
The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Mr. Pistol.
Phil had thought of another paraprosdokian.
But it’s still on my list.