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About the Author
David I. Aboulafia is an attorney with a practice in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
LIKE EVERY BOY GROWING UP ON THE STREETS OF NEW YORK I played baseball, although that wasn't what the sport was called. When I was a kid, baseball was called either softball or hardball.
Softball was played with either rubber balls or cowhide-covered balls with cork centers, both of which were bigger than hardballs. Hardballs were also covered with cowhide but, unlike softballs, had rocks the size of your fist at their center.
Ladies and gentlemen, trust me when I tell you that a hardball was truly something to be afraid of, and perhaps that's why so many city kids never graduated to high school ball or college ball or the pros. You see, in the suburbs, all the baseball fields were manicured pastures of green. In other words, every bounce was a true one, and balls tended to travel precisely where you might have expected them to go.
In the Bronx, however, the baseball fields were almost uniformly rock-strewn and ill-maintained. Once the ball touched the ground, it went wherever it wished to go; or perhaps, wherever an angry God decided it should. That's why most of us stuck to softball; because ... well because the ball was softer, that's why, and because it traveled slower given its greater mass. Also, you could reasonably expect to survive if you were hit by one. Under most circumstances.
So, for many years I played softball, had a team in the league and pitched for my team. I was a reasonably good pitcher, too, but an unreasonably dim-witted one for reasons that will soon become clear.
It happened at a practice somewhere around 1982 and we were all having a good time. Meaning that the air was fresh and clean, the sun was bright and warm and that I was among good friends. And, of course, we were drinking beer, so much, in fact, that I couldn't bear to be parted from my can even while I was on the mound. It stood gallantly beside me there, much like a rosin bag, and I reached for it more frequently than I would have that common baseball accessory.
OK, I was drunk. But so was Bob when he came to the plate.
Bob was forty at the time and a former police sergeant. He was also six feet tall, two hundred fifty pounds and our clean-up hitter. His body was basically one huge muscle formed into a square.
We were good friends, you see, and we were happy to see each other. I was so happy that I began to taunt Bob from the mound. He was so happy he responded quite eagerly, which was actually quite difficult, because he was laughing hysterically and gasping for breath as he spoke.
"You're not going to be able to hit anything, are you, Bob?" I asked.
"I could probably hit something down your throat, Dave," he replied between fits of mirth.
"No, Bob, you couldn't because you can't even see me, so I'm going to take a few steps forward to give you a clearer view."
With that remark, I did, and then lobbed the ball lazily over the plate. Bob took a truly herculean swing, twisting his entire body like a cork-screw as the bat made contact with nothing but the sweet summer air, and finally collapsed in a gleeful heap on the dirt of the field.
The entire bench exploded with laughter, my teammates holding each other for support and wiping the tears from their eyes. Bob struggled to his feet using his bat for support.
Boy, is he drunk! I thought to myself, as I stepped a few feet closer to the plate. I was surprised that Bob looked so much bigger from this new vantage point, even when he looked as blurry as he did. But, hell, I was in the middle of a performance, and I was only through the first act.
"OK, Bob, I'm going to throw it a little bit slower this time," I said.
"OK, Dave, I'm goin' to send it right back to you in a second," Bob replied.
I allowed myself a pregnant pause and then lobbed the ball again, responding as I did.
"I don't think you'll be able to do that, Bob." Whether Bob's wild peals of laughter began as I threw the ball or as he swung through it for the second time, I don't recall. But, I clearly remember him swinging again and crumpling to the ground in particularly ignominious fashion. Half the players on the bench fell from their seats in hysterics, rolling in the dirt and holding their stomachs for fear their inner organs would somehow be forced through their skins.
Bob rose, but only to his knees, and once more using the bat as a cane. He stayed there for a few seconds, head downcast. Were it not for the fact that he was clearly trying to catch his breath, it might have looked as if he were praying.
Thinking about it now, perhaps he was. Eventually, he rose and entered the batter's box again.
I took a few more steps towards the plate. I realized I had traversed half the distance from the mound to the plate, but the significance of this eluded me. What did not elude me was how far away my beer was now, and that bothered me.
I bent down into a pitching stance with a broad smile upon my face.
"I'm going to do everything I can for you now, Bob," I said. "I'm going to give you a pitch even a little baby girl could hit."
I waited another moment. Then, the words spilled from my mouth as the ball lifted from my fingers and floated high into the air.
"But you won't be able to, Bob," I said.
Believe me when I tell you that my timing and delivery were simply perfect. I realized that the next moment would be one of pure comedy, one for the ages; Bob was going to swing through his third strike and fall to the dirt floor of the field in a writhing, quivering heap of hilarity.
I watched the ball descend to the plate. It was only then that I realized Bob had stopped laughing.
When I think of this next snapshot the same image always comes to mind, like a cartoon in my head: It is the white-gloved hand of God Himself reaching down to me from the heavens. I don't know why.
Now, look again at the title of this essay; I'll wait.
Are you finished? OK.
You see, I was about to learn, on the one hand, that both softballs and hardballs tend to travel in just about any direction they wish to go. On the other hand, there are some balls that are really incapable of any locomotion at all, no matter how urgent the need may be to locomotate out of the friggin' way.
Need I now tell you in what path the ball traveled as Bob crushed it, or at what light speed it appeared to progress when he did?
No. I don't think I do.
Is it relevant whether the softball struck the "left one" or the "right one"?
No. It is not.
I think we're communicating. I think you get it, I really do.
As I got it. At one million miles an hour. I dropped to my knees, which is always appropriate when one receives a message of disapproval so crystal clear directly from the Almighty.
Any man – and only a man – who has been struck in this tender area knows the exquisite pain that results. It is not only the degree of agony we experience, but the nature of the agony that is astonishing, quite memorable, and impossible to describe to anyone but a man.
But any man who has been hit there also knows that the pain tends to pass in a few seconds. And I waited – quite patiently, I thought, under the circumstances – for this ballular tribulation to subside. Except, that it did not.
Think of a vise, my friends. Think of a vise that, once closed, is unable to open.
You see, the wives and girlfriends are laughing now. Their men are holding their heads, squeezing their legs shut and trying to get this terrible image out of their minds.
The rest, as they say, is history. I managed to get home – how, I do not know – with the magnitude of the pain exceeding any scale that Charles Richter could have been able to imagine. I limped into the bathroom and removed my pants. And I saw.
What I saw was a sight that I can never quite purge from my head. On the one side, everything was peachy keen. On the other side was something I had never seen before. Something that I had never read about or heard of before. Something that had only a dim relation to anything found in Gray's Anatomy. Something the size of an orange, but the color of an overripe plum.
I think I require medical attention, I thought to myself.
"Yaah – uhhh – yahhh," I cried aloud.
That the hospital's examining physician was gay, I mention only in passing. Somehow, I think that this, too, was a message of some kind, but to present-day its meaning still escapes me.
He gave me a prescription for painkillers. He told me my condition would probably resolve on its own and instructed me to return for a follow-up in one week.
The agony continued without any abatement whatever for three days. No torture inflicted upon anyone in any horror movie, whether by chain saw, hatchet or hot needle, can describe what I went through in that three-day span, popping my prescribed barbiturates twice as often as I should, and writhing on my bed in my own personal hell.
While the pain subsided after the equivalent of a long weekend, what did not abate was the remarkable size of my vital body part, or its astonishing shade of purple, even one week later when I returned to my doctor.
I dutifully lowered my trousers at the physician's command, lay back and allowed him to perform his examination. I watched him closely as he worked. I was worried, but not really worried. After all, he said my condition would resolve itself, and I was feeling much better. Besides, I had a backup plan just in case anything went wrong.
Well, God gave us guys two, didn't he? Perhaps He had spent a few eons on a softball field somewhere.
All of a sudden, I saw the doctor shake his head back and forth, which I thought was a curious thing for him to do. Then, he spoke: "This may have to come off." That was what he said.
As you may imagine, I was a bit lost for words. So, instead of trying to compose a snappy comeback line, I lurched up abruptly, grabbed him by his lapels with both hands, and gently reminded him that just a few days ago he had said I would be OK.
All right, so I wasn't so gentle, and he became a bit alarmed at my reaction. He urged me to stay calm. That made me laugh. However this ended up, he would still be able to walk down the street with his body parts swaying rhythmically back and forth, one in perfect balance with the other. He told me to lie back down, and I did.
Only a minute later, the doctor began to shake his head back and forth again. He repeated his former prognosis, made just moments before.
Do you believe me? Perhaps not. Let me be clear, then. This is the phrase he repeated: "This may have to come off."
With that, my mind and my body went on automatic. I jumped off the examination table and grabbed him again. With my pants hanging around my ankles, I pushed him hard against the wall, his head making a satisfactory thump as it struck sheet rock. I spoke to him through clenched teeth, my face only inches from his, reminding him once again of his original advice.
Rather terrified at this point, he suggested I get a second opinion. I concurred. So, I went to a "specialist."
I quickly learned that there are no ball doctors in New York City. There are, however, plenty of urologists, and, more precisely, urologists who are also surgeons.
The doctor's office was quite impressive, with oak paneling throughout, and a large cherry wood desk that only a skilled physician would possess. He was calm and matter-of-fact. There was no examination, but there was a consultation.
He was really quite pleasant. He looked at my medical records, and we had a nice chat. But he was unable to offer a prognosis of any kind. This confused me. After all, there were thousands of softball players in New York, and he surely must have seen this type of unfortunate mishap happen to someone once before.
I asked him why he was unable to form an opinion. His response was quite memorable.
"Well, I can't tell anything until I get in there," he said.
"You mean surgery?" I asked.
"Exactly," he replied.
Once again, I of the quick wit and spontaneous one-liner was lost for words. Skilled physician that he was, he recognized my predicament immediately and responded accordingly, his words soft and measured, the confidence fairly brimming from his lips as he spoke.
"Listen," he said. "There's nothing to be concerned about. The worst that will happen is that we'll just remove it and put in a prosthetic."
"A prosthetic?" I queried.
"Yes," he replied.
I considered this carefully for a moment. "You mean like a ping pong ball?" I asked. He thought this rather amusing and chuckled gamely.
"Kind of like that," he said, still chuckling. "Pop it right out, pop it right in. Nothing to it."
"Nothing to it," I repeated. I felt my lower lip drop and brush the plush carpet of his immaculate office. An image of an assault rifle appeared suddenly in my mind. I wasn't sure why.
"Nothing to be alarmed about," he reiterated.
"After all, God gave us guys a backup plan, didn't He?"
He smiled broadly. I smiled back just as broadly, shook his hand and thanked him for his time. I said I would consider what he had said and call him the next day. In reality, I wished him a slow, agonizing death, and vowed if I ever saw him again I would terminate him on the spot.
I then decided to see a real doctor. A real doctor would give me a more acceptable prognosis. In other words, he would not suggest the slicing, dicing, removal or replacement of a part of my anatomy I had really grown quite attached to over the years.
Specifically, I went to see the associate director of urology at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. I lay down on an examination table at his request, and he began his inspection of the goods. He began to shake his head back and forth.
This action did not produce anxiety or angst as you might expect, but it did make me think.
After all, having narrowly avoided the cold-blooded murder of my two prior physicians, I truly wondered whether I possessed the necessary resilience to avoid butchering this one, at least before he decided to do the same to me. As it turned out, no capital crime was required.
"Must've hurt," he stated, undoubtedly with nothing but scholarly and solicitous intent.
Must have, I thought to myself. "Ya' think?" I replied.
"Were you on any pain medication?" he asked. I produced a half-empty vial of painkillers from my pocket. He examined the bottle.
"How long did you take these for?" he asked.
"Three days," I replied.
"Good thing," he said.
"Why is that?" I innocently inquired.
"Because, in two more days, you probably would've been dead," he replied.
"Really," I said.
It wasn't a question. After all that had happened, I wasn't capable of being surprised anymore by anything.
"Really," he repeated.
The doctor explained that I had suffered serious internal bleeding. He also explained that the medication I had taken acted as a blood thinner, preventing proper clotting. In other words, unbeknownst to me, I had continued to bleed as long as I was on the medication and would have as long as I continued to take it. Until I was all out, I suppose. Of blood, not pills.
In any event, I confess I have set you up for a happy ending, and I am pleased to note that most of the stories you'll read here end in just this way. No surgery was necessary, and no serious disability worth reporting to you resulted, as the existence of my two daughters happily attests.
There is only one footnote to this tale. You see, I was still quite swollen, and apparently would be for a while. Put another way, I was huge. Put yet another way – and forgive me for being so crass, but I really feel I need to make my point, here – you'll need to imagine stuffing an orange into a pair of tight jeans, and then imagine what that might look like to an innocent passerby.
As it turned out, imagination was not required. My next snapshot puts me on the streets of Woodside, New York, returning to my apartment. Walking towards me was a rather attractive young woman. When she approached to a distance of about ten feet, she stopped dead in her tracks. She gasped, and focused her gaze upon a place where I assure you there was neither fruit stand nor orange grove anywhere to be seen.
Maybe this isn't so bad, I thought to myself.
BETWEEN THE AGES OF EIGHT AND EIGHTEEN, I lived in an apartment in a 20-storey high-rise in the Bronx, NY. It rested on a high rocky hill and had an outlandish yellow brick exterior accented by green terrace dividers that stood out for miles. One side of the apartment building – the side I lived on – looked out over the East Bronx, a relatively unattractive hodgepodge of roads and buildings. The first thing one would notice about the view – sweeping from my eighteenth-story vista – was the elevated trains that ran twenty-four hours a day. It took some doing to learn to sleep with the interminable din of those iron horses ringing in your ears at all hours of the night.
Excerpted from "Snapshots from My Uneventful Life"
Copyright © 2016 David I. Aboulafia.
Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
2. The Snake,
3. Horror Dogs,
4. How To Almost Get Rid Of Your Wife On Your Honeymoon,
6. A Funny Gag, But No Laughing Matter,
7. Asleep At The Wheel,
8. No Knack For The Kayak,
9. The Autograph,
11. Free Bird,
12. The Lie-mo-zeene,
13. Sewer Covers Hover,
14. A Shot In The Dark,
15. The Funniest Man On Earth,
16. What Happens In The Dorm STAYS In The Dorm,
17. Our Maine Mistake,
18. Nothing Magic About This Mountain,
19. Women Scare Me When They Don't Notice You're Dead,
20. It's Hard For A Father When His Daughters Are Mike Tyson & Mario Andretti,
21. The Night Of A Thousand Jews (Or How I Met My Wife),
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite Snapshots From My Uneventful Life is a non-fiction humorous memoir written by David I. Aboulafia. In his introduction, the author theorizes that our memories of past events are really more like snapshots taken in succession, and so the memoirs that comprise this book are his snapshots. Each of us has their own snapshots, he argues, and they remain in our heads until we pass on to another existence; then they are gone forever. Aboulafia has taken it on himself to memorialize his snapshots for the reader. Each snapshot is a look into his past; some are poignant, as in the story of Boy the German Shepherd, but most are pretty funny, even hilariously so. Aboulafia grew up in Bronx, New York, and his stories have a definite east coast flavor to them. David I. Aboulafia’s non-fiction humor book, Snapshots From My Uneventful Life, is an inspiration and a joy to read, even if you have somewhat less of a sense of humor than most people have, as I do. His stories are told in a wry and easy conversational style that makes you think he’s there chatting alongside you as the two of you indulge in a drink or three. I could visualize the bartender serving him that oh-so-pricey shot of 25-year-old Scotch and marvelled at the attack of the sewer covers on the Long Island Expressway. As a former New Yorker, I remember that stretch of the LIE all too well. But I’d have to say my favorite snapshot involves spitballs and straws and milk being snorted out of a student judge’s nose. Yes, this was one of the more juvenile and endearing snapshots I encountered in this very funny and disarming collection of memoirs, but my sense of humor is what it is, and I’m impressed and pleased that this author could actually rouse it from its long slumber. I’m hoping that David Aboulafia has a few more snapshots hidden up his sleeves for future glimpses at his uneventful life. Snapshots From My Uneventful Life is highly recommended.