Weekend Update, Solo and Playing with Balls: Blue Balls

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Productive-ass weekend. Wrote the next two weeks worth of MITC stories. That might seem like cheating but I want to get a month ahead because I think I'm going to take part in National Novel Writing Month and there is no way I can do that and this site at the same time. You have to do a 50,000 word novel in a month. The way I see it, I write close to 30,000 words a month with this site and I spend about a half-hour a day on it. Make that an hour a day with some overtime on weekends and I’ll rock this out. I’m also going to refrain from comic plugs and such through November while doing the novel. I might not bring them back, either, unless it’s a friend that wants a mention. My audience is big enough that I don’t need to rely on comic talk anymore plus there are plenty of people that do it better. (I just realized that in order to write a 50k word novel next month, I'm going to end up writing over 50k words this month, most likely.)

Redrafted the 31 Eggs synopsis, mine and Jorge’s OGN based on Halloween in Brooklyn and is sort of Warriors meets Stand By Me except the kids wear flat-tops. I want to start scripting it and looking around for an artist. Finished the first draft of my Shear Terror story and will finally be sending it off to Chris Piers sometime this week, once I feel good about it. Obviously I didn't go out at all this weekend but I needed to save money. Orlando next weekend followed by another trip to Panama City. NYC later in the month, Boston in November (plus the CC Fest) along with another NYC trip and then Christmas - it's going to be a busy couple of months.

I wanted to get to some more of my SPX stash but, you know, fuck it. I did get to read Solo #6 which spotlights Jordi Bernet. Solo continues to be the best book from the big two on the stands and I’m even starting to think it’s the best book on the stands period. Issue 7 spotlights Mike Allred, Issue 8 spotlights Teddy Kristiansen (and Neil Gaiman story!), fuck that…dope. As long as they don’t start doing people like Jim Lee and Brian Hitch (nothing against them, just not their sandbox) this series will continue to excite the fuck out of me. Also seems like a great place to bring Sam Keith back to comics. Please, God.

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Sorry about the misleading title, I needed something that will increase my Google hits. So, to all the perverts Googling in for pictures of people playing with balls, "hello". This week will be dedicated to the most treasured and diverse toy in a kid from Brooklyn’s arsenal of fun: The Blue Ball.

There was nothing like a blue ball. The smell of the rubber, the sound it makes when it knocks against the wall or someone’s forehead, the way the exterior slowly flakes and falls apart until the ball bursts – the way you tend to roof it before it gets to that point. Every kid in my neighborhood walked around with a blue ball in his pocket. We had hundreds of games we could play with them and at any time of the day anyone of them was a good idea. No-one ever said no to a game involving a blue ball.

We had options to play with other kinds of balls. The solid pink ball for instance. Works great for pegging people randomly but otherwise its primary function would be for stickball. But you can’t roof a pink ball, you’d need to be Barry Bonds to pull that one off, and roofing balls in stickball is what allows adolescent males to hold their head high. The hollow blue ball soars over a roof when you bunt it, making for a much more exciting game.

There were the tiny black balls the “real” handball players play with. The kind you need a glove to hit or else your hand becomes all calloused and diseased looking. Wearing a handball glove in Red Hook was a perfectly justifiable excuse for homicide. Blue balls on fleshy hands was the only way to play handball. Yeah it stung sometimes, especially in November, but you sucked it up and rocked it as hard as you can every time.

Whiffle balls were fucking pointless outside of whiffle ball. You can’t play catch with them, can’t bounce them, they don’t even peg well 'cause they seem to avoid people when you throw them. They’re good for throwing crazy ass loopy pitches that in any normal game of baseball would always be a ball. Guys swinging over their heads and hacking at balls that are five feet outside the batters box. If whiffle ball allowed for a catcher and base stealing 99% of the runs would be people who came home on wild pitches.

Softballs are for softball and playing catch. Same for hardballs. You only peg somebody with a hardball if you’re trying to hurt them. If we got 18 kids together for a game of softball or baseball we’d need 7 gloves for softball, 9 for hardball. We’d need at least one bat. A blue ball requires two people and nothing else to have hours of fun with it.

Super Bouncy Balls and Brooklyn pavement were mortal enemies. One bounce and the shit went under a car or into the backyard with the pit-bull that just stared at you and fucking dared you to even touch the fence.

We couldn’t afford dodge balls although I’m sure they were fun. We lost a ball a day; dodge balls didn’t fall into our financial scheme. Blue balls were two for a dollar at Joe Tomo’s Cigar Shop and those were the high end ones. You can get the three for a dollar ones at the Arab joint around the corner or the bodega on President and Hicks (now an Arab joint, as well). Only the desperate got the four for a dollar balls at Met Food. Never buy something from a Korean store that you can buy from an Arab store, bodega or Cigar Shop, it’s just a cheap knock-off. Met Food’s ball split within a couple of minutes of playing with them. Although I must admit, the Korean stores over on Court and Smith Street impress the fuck out of me and are a welcomes exception to every Korean Store rule – they had Pirate’s Booty and Smart Puffs before anybody else in the neighborhood and they sold us illegal alcohol well before the bodegas and Arabs did.

Footballs were for football. Nerf balls the same, in addition to water bombs. Basketballs had a couple of uses but they all involved an actual hoop or a milk crate. Plus two people play basketball without backup there’s a good chance you’re not coming back with the basketball.

It’s pretty obvious why the blue ball was the ball of choice. With one ball you could play handball, stoopball, suicide, homicide, wallball, stickball, boxes, monkey in the middle or just spend an afternoon pegging each other.

We’d make up games – throw it up in the air and catch it; whoever catches it gets to throw it up in the air next. Hit the stop sign from across the street. Ghetto bowling with cans. Bounce it over the fence from across the street. Roof it on the Power House. Throw it in somebody’s window. Throw it over the BQE to your friend on the other side. This weird hockey variant using bikes where you need to pass the ball to each other and throw it pass the opposing goalie.

We would just be sitting on a stoop, drinking quarter waters, when someone would say, “Hey. I bet you I can bounce my blue ball off the curb and have it go across the street and into Joey Honeybunch’s open window.” And that’s how we would spend our fucking afternoon (or until someone parked in front of the curb we were using).

This week is dedicated to the games we played with blue balls and true stories from the trenches. Tomorrow is handball and boxes, Wednesday is stoopball and wallball, Thursday is suicide and homicide and Friday is a look back at my neighborhood's blue ball hall of fame.

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