Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's Just Forget About This One

Java Junkies infinity-seven, Grub Street Word-Slingers one

By Matt Frederick

Fresh off a dominating victory the previous week, the Grub Street Word-Slingers took the diamond Sunday expecting big things. The big thing to emerge was an early deficit, as the orange-clad Java Junkies scored several billion times in the first inning to take the lead, several billion to zero. The Junkies added several dozen more dingers in the second and third innings to increase their lead to eleventy-twelve skillion to nothing, despite Matt Biewener's conscientous patrolling of Church Street beyond the left field fence.

Fueled by several swinging bunts, the Word-Slingers built a two-out threat in the bottom of the third, putting runners on first and second. But the rally died when Matt Frederick's drive toward the warning track in left was hauled in by the Junkies' pitcher a little bit in front of third base.

Jon Papernick relieved the starting pitcher in the top of the fourth and finally quieted the Junkies' attack with a variety of illegal pitches. Papernick then led the offense in the bottom of the fourth by singling and scampering all the way home on a double by someone or other; no one is sure who as we weren’t paying much attention by this point.

With the Word-Slingers prowess having been made apparent, the game was called by the umpire after the bottom of the fourth inning on account of it not resembling softball.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning

Word-Slingers 19, Other Team 5.

While the rest of the world was cozily dozing on Sunday morning, Grub Street’s dedicated Word Slingers woke at the crack of dawn to stretch their hamstrings and pound their mitts into shape.
“It’s turning into a beautiful day,” team captain Becky Tuch observed, as the mist rose from wet grass and deep layers of mud dried around second base.
“Yeah,” agreed outfielder Matt Biewener, swilling from a bottle of Muscle Milk and wiping sleep from his eyes. “Beautiful.
Plied with gusto and coffee and delicious farm-picked apples, it wasn’t long before the disappointment of the team’s early-season losses evaporated like dew. At third base, Ted Weesner—who has been studying ballet in his free time—was quick, organized and graceful. No ball got past him as he dove, jumped and hustled like a man—or ballerina—on fire.
But what would a third baseman be without a first baseman to receive his throws? At this post was medieval fantasy freak, Ethan Gilsdorf. Clad in chain mail, clutching his sword in one hand and his mitt in the other, Gilsdorf stopped many a gnome and woodland creature from arriving safe at the plate.
Notable infielders included Jon Papernick, who likes to wear stretchy white leggings, Wayne Feldman who donned the season’s latest hiking boots, and Mike Whose Last Name No One Actually Knows. These three fashion icons caught pop-ups, dug in for grounders, backed up the pitcher, and called out plays, all while giving George Clooney a run for his money as next GQ poster man.
Then there was the outfield. Cunning and sharp, these stalwarts knew how to stack the field. Engine Purring Matt Biewener, Motor Oil Matt Frederick, Elbow Grease Jeff Stern and This-Author-Wishes-She-Knew-More-About-Cars-Because-She’s-Out-of-Metaphors Clarence Lai, lined up in rows, spread apart like star clusters, and generally organized themselves into complex algorithms to safeguard against homerun hitters. It was like watching, well, a car. Run. Without making chugging noises.
And finally, Bestsy Lawson proved once again how vital she is to the team. Not only did she recruit the incredible Kristine YoungPerson, but she stepped right up to the mound and did an outstanding job, pitching a solid and consistent game that left the other team shuddering in their cleats and oversize tee shirts. She is a pitcher who can field, a fielder who can pitch, a mom who can coach, a coach who is a mom, an all around powerhouse.
Team Captain Becky Tuch is happy to report that, indeed, Sunday turned into a beautiful day. Final score: Word-Slingers 19, Other Team 5.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two East Boston Seniors Meet Twenty East Boston Kids

Here at Grub Street we have been truly impressed with all the unexpected journeys that the Memoir Project has taken since it began in 2006. Last Wednesday, the Boston Museum hosted an event at the East Boston Public Library where two seniors read their essays from My Legacy Is Simply This. The audience was twenty rowdy students from Umana Middle School Academy.

It was not a traditional reading. The seniors, Ann Papapietro and Alice Christopher, punctuated each paragraph of their essays with additional unwritten thoughts and comments, and the students responded with questions and comments of their own. The result was a dialogue on the past and present of East Boston - from the days before the tunnel when a ferry cost a single cent, to the food carts along Porter Street, and even a short talk about the importance of using cloth napkins and tablecloths.

After Mrs. Christopher read from her essay the focus changed from history to heritage. Her essay ‘A Nice American Girl’ is about being the youngest daughter of a large Italian family. And Mrs. Christopher wasn’t shy about how hard it was to be the only one in her family born in America, about having to translate for her parents, about never learning Italian, and about her childhood dislike of traditional Italian food. The same issues were presented to the students: Did they have parents and siblings who were born in another country? Did they ever have to translate for their parents? And for each question, more then half the students raised their hands.

Through the skill of the humanities teachers at Umana Middle School Academy and the foresight of the Boston Museum, several connections were made that day in the basement of the East Boston Public Library. The seniors were able to share the personal stories of their lives, but also add their perspective to East Boston history and the challenges of being an American immigrant. And in that quiet, fidgety way twenty middle school students learned something they didn’t know before- even if it was just that going to the movies used to cost ten cents.

-Whitney Ochoa

Monday, September 21, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Why The Word-Slingers Should Have Won Sunday’s Game

1. The team played at Veteran’s Field, which is the most beautiful of all the North Boston fields, with a glistening lake just nearby and a pleasant atmosphere of dog-walkers, joggers and elderly sports fans.

2. Jen LaVin pitched like an ace, earning numerous strike-outs.

3. No ball was too high or too low for Brian Runk, whose uncannily long limbs make him a star first baseman.

4. Short-stop Jon Papernick didn’t let a single ball go past him. While many balls were stopped, he, himself was unstoppable.

5. Outfielders Betsy Lawson, Mike Last-Name-Unknown, Jeff Stern, Clarence Lai and Ethan Gilsdorf caught fly balls high and fast and deep, and they made it look as easy as reading an email.

6. The umpire had lovely blue eyes, a sturdy physique and a charming Boston accent, all of which did not go unnoticed by team captain, Becky Tuch.

7. A local park ranger came by to remind the team to clean up afterward. His orange tan and waxed chest did not go unnoticed by outfielder Matt Biewener and third-baseman Tom Meek.

8. Power-hitter Steve Rubman beat that ball into the clouds again and again.

9. Wayne Feldman.

10. Finally, while the other team was short a woman, the Grub Street team had just enough, including Kristen, who came from outer space.

Sadly, the game was a tie up until the very last inning, at which point the Team In Lime Green earned a final two runs, ending the game, 10-8. Next time, Word-Slingers. Next time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Too Bad It's Not Preseason

(Other Team 15, Grub Street Word-Slingers 11)

While no rain fell on the Word-Slinger’s Sunday game, arbitrary rules and goose droppings spilled from the sky. To start things off, pitcher Jen LaVin was told to stand 600 feet from home plate.

“These are East Coast rules!” said Umpire Pouty McPoutface.

Adaptable as always, the Word-Slingers brought good spirits, high energy and a slew of valuable rookies to the field. New-timer Michelle Hoover hustled into home plate only to later fall victim to McPoutface’s willy-nilly One-And-One rule, which called her out after only two strikes. New-comer Steve Rubman also proved to be champion.

When asked about Rubman’s particular strengths on the field, fellow teammate, Clarence Lai said, “I don’t know. He got a hit.”

When not trying to make sense of the Inside-Outside-First-Base rule, the Sliding-Into-Home rule, the Game-Ends-After-1.25-Hours rule, and the horrendous Girls-Get-Their-Own-Rules rule, and when not sliding in goose droppings, other players proved outstanding as well. Betsy Lawson made vital outs in right field and hit the ball with gusto and grunts. In centerfield, Matt Biewener stared at his toes and wondered why the team was playing in P&G’s pharmaceutical office park, and if the goose droppings may not have in fact been clumps of toxic waste.

Meanwhile, Matt Frederick, Jon Papernick, Wayne Feldman, Brian Runk and Ted Weesner protected the infield with skill and panache, making numerous double plays that looked at once graceful and full of power, at once humble and mighty. In short, they are the voices of our generation.

Ultimately, the Word-Slingers couldn’t get much leverage on the other team’s pitcher. “He was a cheater,” says team Captain Becky Tuch. “Or at least, he was a diaper-wearing, Backstreet-Boys-loving goblin.”

Adds Clarence Lai, “There were a lot of goose droppings.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Softball Department (brought to you by guest sportscaster, Matt Biewener)

Grub Street Wordslingers 9 – Consultants of D. E. F. 10
ALLSTON--Armed with an off-season’s banquet of come-backs, one-liners, melodic-taunts, and go-get-em-cheers, the Wordslingers descended on the valley known as “Ringer’s Field” to take on the Consultants of D.E.F. Grub Street softball, in all its glory and tragedy, had returned – but the unfamiliar Allston terrain proved to be just as unknowable as the significance of their adversaries’ name. 

Despite clouds circling ominously overhead, threatening to rain or at least make things more dramatic, baseballs were all that fell out of the sky. Jeff Stern stopped one potential homerun with his back to the fence but three more happened to land beyond his reach, beyond the concrete, and, actually, pretty far back in the woods. The Wordslingers, however, were unfazed. A sudden crack of the bat sent a rocket directly toward Ethan Gilsdorf who, pausing for a moment to consider the temptation to catch the ball with the side of his face, defused the threat easily – owing, in large part, to his perfect positioning, freshly oiled leather webbing, and fanatical nihilism. 

But the moment that put a gasp in everyone’s throats was the moment when Wayne Feldman courageously (and perhaps unintentionally) collided with his teammate, his catcher, and his captain to save a run by tagging a runner coming home.  Playing all three of these positions (and, at that point, still lying on the ground unconscious due to the aforementioned collision) was Becky Tuch, who returned the following inning to make two even more amazing plays: first, a Vari-fantas-tek shoe-string grab and, second, preventing the front leg of yet another runner coming home from touching the plate by stabbing it with the ball.

Down six runs to five in the bottom of the fourth, Betsy Lawson made her bat-boy (and future Wordslinger) son proud by sprinting her way down to first with a promising leadoff single.  Unfortunately, the shift in momentum was only momentary as her dazzling display of determination was unreciprocated by her teammates who contributed three consecutive fly-outs to end the inning.

In the fifth, a Clarence Lai trademark hard grounder up the middle set the tone for the inning. A series of domino base hits even George Kennan couldn’t have predicted catapulted the Wordslingers into the lead by two runs.  But that lead was short-lived.  The valley’s violent vortex of wind robbed Amber DeFrancis yet again as it pushed her late sixth inning potential homerun back into the infield as a pop-fly.

Going into the seventh, the Wordslingers were down by only one run.  Following two clutch singles, Jen Lavin produced one of her own, sending the base-runners gunning.  But while Matt Frederick rounded third, the crowd’s cheers, the coach’s directions, and the well-audible shrieking from the bench’s least productive player (Matt Biewener) conflicted with the base-runner’s inner warrior instinct and he was tagged out on his way to home.

In the end, their strong showing in the middle innings, the glove of all-over-the outfield Tom Meek, and the conspicuous lack of any memory of last year’s season proved to be not enough as the Wordslingers lost by one run – 10 to 9.

Monday, April 13, 2009

YAWP! Read All About It!

I walked into Grub Street early last Saturday in preparation for March’s YAWP. I filled out my little form, sat in a chair, and waited for the people to come in as usual, but usual wasn’t in the cards. Last month was what may have been the largest YAWP ever, and I’d be lying if I said that isn’t incredibly exciting.

Most of these new people must have taken the poetry or screenwriting workshop because fiction seemed no larger than usual. We all took our seats in the room and went around the circle, introducing ourselves, before getting down to business. Becky, the first teacher, gave us our prompt. “Write a situation in which one character slowly reveals information to another” and we were off. Thirty minutes later, those of us who wished were able to share their pieces, and the first part of the fiction class came to a close. And as it just so happens we began to talk revision.

For us, revision was an ugly topic, it seemed like the entire room had their own opinion of it which ended with “I really don’t do it that much” and this workshop dealt with it well, editing a small piece is much easier than a larger one. After we’d been at it for a little while, the metaphorical lunch bell metaphorically rang and we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and eat.

The poetry and screenwriting class had, I gathered from other students, been up to similar activities. Following the introductions, they were handed a packet of writing examples and, drawing from one in particular, started working on a piece. After 15 minutes they would share and continue in the same manner until lunch.

Lunch was, as lunch always is, a great time. If you don’t enjoy spending time with fantastically creative and intelligent people, then perhaps YAWP is not for you. Lunch is also short, but we didn’t mind, more writing was to come.

Returning to the fiction class, we had a new teacher, Nadine replacing Becky, and as is often the case she had us read the first bit of a book. After passing the book around, we drew from it, writing about a character that pretended to be something they were not. However, no sooner had we begun sharing the poetry class began to file in for the open mic, and the last chapter of YAWP began.

But now, with all of us sitting in a room, it began. One by one we walked up to the podium, introduced ourselves, and read. We heard tales of immortality, of Jewish grandmothers who change their name and move westward, of a birthday mistake and a loveably insane husband, and of everything else you can imagine. This open mic had a special attribute, as well; it was the first one I can remember that had to be cut short, because more people had read than we had time for. Now that it’s happened, however, I hope as much as possible that it continues.

-Michael McGurk
Grub Street's official YAWP Reporter

The Young Adult Writing Program (YAWP) meets one Saturday a month for writing workshops, food, and fun. For more information visit