Monday, November 03, 2008

Adjectives & Mr. Chase Utley

I had an English teacher in high school we called Professor Tweed. He was a fastidious older gentleman who looked absolutely resplendent in tweed. Pants, kerchief, suit jacket, we even swore his clipped greyish mustache was woven of tweed as well. Having a bit of free time after retiring from professorial duties at Princeton and other colleges on the Ivy circuit, he signed up at our lucky high school to teach a few English lit courses. Those of us high on the self-delusion scale as regards our writing abilities were thrilled to have someone of such caliber at our small college prep school.
"Ha!," we crowed, "now, we’ll have someone on staff who would truly appreciate the pains of our craft." Well, we were half right for 95% of us. Professor Tweed was truly in pain with the majority of us, most probably wondering if some gastric pains had caused his mind to be hobbled enough when he decided to offer his services to our school. One of our classmates went on into the writing trade while another ended up at NPR where he's been writing and producing various shows of national note, including "This American Life". For the rest of us, having our scribblings evaluated by such a talented editor made for quick realizations that our future writing would be limited to the Great American Office Memo or The Employee Review:A One-on-One Study in the Modern Sado-Masochistic Relationship. Being young, coltish, and doltish, the pain to our souls was quick to hit and hurt and quick to depart. "Oh, well. There’s always (law/med/MBA) school…..where my writing may REALLY be appreciated.

One of the many remarkable qualities about Professor Tweed was his acerbic wit. As he handed out marked papers, he would drop a quick line or two at each desk, like a samurai delivering flicks of his sword down upon a loathsome enemy. We, like the on-charging victim would stand straight for a second or two, before collapsing in slices of ourselves at our desk. For most of us, it became an honor and a contest to receive the most withering of praises. Like true lunks, still deep within our inner inkwells, we still believed in our suspect writing talent. So, rather than taking Prof. Tweed's prickly advice, we entrenched in our faults, constructing bunkers that would have had doughboys' admiring glances.

I had a special arrow in his quiver, one he launched practically with each of my paper’s returns. "Mr. Deadwood, I presume, was his familiar greeting to me. I had, have, and will have a preternatural affection for adjectives. "The more the better", was my battle-cry. I was personally responsible for Prof. Tweed's racing through a box of red carbon pencils in my senior year. My papers were skyscrapers of descriptive additions. They were returned, marked down to a ranch house. He did admire the depth of my research and my footnotes; a ton of work in those days when the Internet was available for use to only the top levels of our armed forces. He was a Hemingway Man, with limited admiration for Charles Dickens, so I was the fully loaded sentence that need to be skinned. By the end of the year, my writing did weigh less, spurred on by the forced diet he had us on. My last gasp at my old self appeared on the final exam and he, true to form, red-inked out the battalion of adjectives I had marching to and fro in my submitted answers. In one particularly heavy and ponderously loaded sentence, he drew a sword and red-marked all of the adjectives, with the sword emerging form the red pile like Arthur’s sword. He loved King Arthur and spoke on occasion of how that era is the time he’d like to come back to. The red pitched battle on my paper was his final attempt at curing what he thought ailed me. A note at the end of the exam, "Mr. Deadwood, we have fought the gallant battle. I am withdrawing from this war.", brought tears to my eyes. My over-adjectivizing was more of an adversary than I’d thought.

So, whenever I read or wrote anything after high school, I did try to economize on the clothing I’d put my nouns in. Being neither a fan of Hemingway’s nor of Dickens’, but a grudging admirer of their talents and their works, I have tried to corral my inner adjective.

Sometimes, though, there’s nothing like the great use of an adjective.
Case in point.
Citizen’s Bank Park.
Celebration for becoming baseball's world champions.

Chase Utley, the Phillie’s brilliant shortstop, rises from his seat. He is a notoriously soft-spoken guy who avoids journalists and interviewers as if they were low and away fastballs.
He steps up to the mike.
World Champions!", he yells to the adoring crowd.
Applause, of the polite quality ensues.
He steps back to the mike.
World F%$#*ing Champions !!!
Hysterical applause. Players and coaches behind Utley clutch their chests. Parents cover their children's ears (O.K., maybe not in Philly). Taxi-drivers listening on the radio in the city crash into light posts. Mounted Philly cops try to calm their steeds.
A legend is made.
T-shirt's coming outing shortly.

NSFW, but definitely funny.

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Ahahahahahahaha. I love it.
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