Saturday, November 27


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE REUNION.

1. After all of the stress, after all of the tension, after all of the dread, it finally happened last night. In the beer splattered bowels of Boston’s financial district, Jose Melendez’s tenth high school reunion transformed from distant anxiety to current ennui. To be honest, Jose had been worrying about the reunion since the warm Spring day when he graduated from high school in 1994.

People worry about reunions for lots of reasons. Some people want to show their old classmates that they’ve done well in life, married a beautiful woman, lost weight or simply transcended the pimple faced geekdom that defined them in them in their youth. Perhaps others want to show people that they are no longer bullies (Note: Or perhaps that they still are bullies.) But none of these "traditional" anxieties troubled Jose. Jose is basically happy with who he is now and was basically happy with who he was in high school, he’s got nothing to prove. (Note: Though Jose will confess, he was a little disappointed that no one said "You’re Jose Melendez? The Jose Melendez? Wow. I read you like twice a month. You suck. You just f*cking suck, I can’t believe you were such a d*ck to Little Cesar Crespo.") No, what troubled Jose was the nagging fear that he might be asked to help with reunion planning.

You see, Jose was Class Secretary his senior year of high school, a position that turns out to be a lifetime office, and as a class officer he could conceivably bare some nominal responsibility for the reunion. Jose didn’t really think about that when he ran for the job, though he supposes he should have known. Jose assumed that, as in most nominal democracies, elected positions are subject to, well, elections. Typically, one does not become President for Life or Secretary for Life or whatever without some sort of military or security action and frankly the BHS Class of ’94 state security apparatus did not seem up to the task. Nevertheless Jose is Secretary for Life, joining Kim Jong Il, Bashir al-Assad and Ayatollah Ali Khameni in the club of leaders with lifetime tenures. Yes, Jose is in a club with some disturbing characters. (Note: Though Jose bets Kim and Assad don’t have to plan their class reunions. Khameni might though, Jose isn’t sure what goes into the job of being Supreme Leased of a country.)

Jose’s hope had always been that he would never get the call. Jose liked the Class President for Life and other officers fine, but they were not folks he hung out with in high school, much less now, so he figured the risk was minimal. Moreover, Jose’s poor effort in setting up the Spirit Week Semi-Formal Dance his senior year had established him as a poor team player and general malcontent. These factors gave Jose some room to relax, and yet the worry persisted.

When the five year reunion came and went in 1999 without Jose receiving anything more than an invitation, the worry dissipated. The Class President for Life and his friends were clearly going to organize these reunions ad infintium, and Jose was perfectly happy to let them. So Jose relaxed into his life, the black cloud of fear lifted from above him. He got comfortable. He let his guard down. He got caught.

Three months ago, Jose was walking the streets of his neighborhood in Boston’s historic North End, and he ran into the Class President for Life. There were a million things Jose could have done; he did none of them. He could have screamed and ran away. He didn’t. He could have pretended he was someone else. He didn’t. He could have simply collapsed to the ground and then been carted off to safety in an ambulance. He didn’t. Instead, he had a conversation. He choked. Jose talked with the Class President for Life, who it turns out lives two blocks from Jose, about work and the neighborhood, and yes, the reunion.

It was then that the crushing burden fell on Jose’s broad shoulders. The Class President for Life asked him to help…he asked Jose to let his friends know the time, date and location. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! THE HORROR!!! THE HORROR!!!

Jose was sucked in and escape was impossible, resistance futile. Jose was forced by circumstance, forced by history, forced by the duties, obligations and responsibilities of his high office to spend one, perhaps two minutes sending emails about the reunion to his friends, none of whom came anyway. And those minutes? Those minutes are gone forever, evaporated into the ether. Could Jose have cured cancer in those minutes? Flown to Mars? Scaled Everest? Eaten lunch? Who knows? That brief shining moment and all of its potential, all of its possibility is gone to the ages, just another victim of the high school reunion.

2. At the reunion Jose was able to accomplish something momentous, however. By virtue of being among the last handful of people still drinking when the bars shut their doors, Jose is prepared to declare himself one of the coolest, if not the coolest kid in high school. It may have taken him until the age of 28, but Jose finally did it!!! Also, Jose suggested starting a fight with the Lexington High School and Wayland High School reunions that were happening right up the street. That’s got to count for something.

3. Jose actually needs to be serious for a moment, and break character.

A few years ago, I learned that one of my classmates, a girl named Elizabeth Porreca had died. I saw the obituary in the Boston Globe. Last night, I learned that she died it a car accident. I didn’t know this girl beyond her name, and to be honest, I'm not even sure I’m spelling in correctly. In a class of 182 people, she was one of the people I knew the least, but it still broke my heart to hear that she was dead. The only thing I remember about her was that at the Halloween dance my senior year, she won the best costume contest by dressing as the Pillsbury Doughboy. It was a really great costume. I don’t know if more than a few of my classmates will ever read this, but I think it’s important that we remember her.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE REUNION.

Wednesday, November 24


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

1. It’s happening again. It’s all happening again.

That is Jose’s initial reaction to the news that Gape Kapler, "The World’s Most Perfectly Sculpted Jew" is leaving the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX to play every day center field for the Yomiuri Giants. Jose knows this has been hard for a lot of people. For some, the pain comes from the knowledge that the greatest Red Sox team of all time is officially no more. For the ladies, the pangs are spawned by the knowledge that they will no longer be able to ogle Kapler when the Sox face left handed pitching. For others, the agony originates in the certainty that Kevin Millar is one trade of Kevin Youkilis away from being unable to claim that the team’s pregame drinking is merely saying the Kiddush. These are all good reasons for sadness or even despair, but for Jose it cuts just a little deeper. For Jose it is about abandonment, the loss of dear friends and the pain of childhood.

Jose is one-eighth Japanese and has thus always imagined that he has a special relationship with the Japanese people. (Note: See KEYS TO JAPAN. ) Okay, Jose doesn’t speak their language, he finds some of their food revolting and puts Kabuki in a special category of with Peking Opera and the ABC Prime Time Lineup, but still, he feels a kinship. (Note: Crud, Jose discovered "Lost" last week, and agrees with the critics that it is fantastic, making the previous joke invalid. Please substitute "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" for the "ABC Prime Time Lineup." Okay. That’s better.)

As a child, Jose’s affinity for the Japanese largely expressed itself in his eagerness to befriend Japanese children who lived in his neighborhood. Due to Belmont’s proximity to Harvard, there were always a few Japanese families living in the neighborhood for one year while the father went to Harvard. Each year Jose would befriend a Japanese boy his age, and each summer the boy would move back to Japan with his family. Jose slowly began to find Japan to be a viscous tease, constantly supplying him with friends and then stealing them away.

It was hard when Jose’s Japanese friends would desert him for the lure of Shinto shrines Godzilla movies, and their entire families, but Jose could understand that they were simply going home. What took Jose by surprise was when his friend Brad, who could not be any less Japanese, took off with his family to live in Japan immediately following fifth grade. Jose should have seen it coming; after all, Brad’s family had lived in Japan before, but the idea that a white guy, a really, really white guy, would ditch Jose to live in Japan was too much. Jose began to suspect that all of is friends would move to Japan before too long. There would be entire villages consisting of Jose’s old friends and their families. They would even have their own golf club. (Note: Jose accidentally typed "golf club" as "Gold Club," before he edited. The idea of all of Jose’s friends having their own Gold Club was much, much funnier.)

Until two days ago, Jose has basically gone a good 18 years without a friend ditching him to move to Japan, so he had grown accustomed to his friends not fleeing to the land of the rising sun. (Note: Okay, his friend Mark moved to Japan, but he’d already ditched Jose to live in New York, San Francisco and London, so no big surprise.) Now this. Now Japan steals something else from Jose.

Jose knows what you’re thinking. You’re thinking "Jose, did you even know Gabe Kapler?"

Well, no, Jose didn’t know Gabe Kapler, Gabe Kapler was not Jose’s friend in the traditional sense of someone Jose knew personally and went for beers with. Jose was not at Kapler’s Bar mitzvah or wedding, though Kapler did wave to Jose’s cousin as a wedding present from Jose. But Kapler was much more than a friend, he was a talented defensive outfielder who hit .279 for the Sox and hit 10 home runs and 56 RBI in 204 games with the Sox. He was a baserunner with lighting speed but no conception of how to steal a base. He may be easily replaced, but he will not be easily forgotten. (Note: The Melendezette had lived in Japan but is fairly emphatic about not moving back, so Jose is betting that he’s safe on that one, of course, if Gabe Kapler can live, one never knows.)

So Jose’s ambivalence towards Japan returns. Of course, if the Orix Blue Wave would only take BK Kim’s contract that ambivalence could easily transform into friendly good cheer. (Additional Note: But it the meantime Jose shares this anecdote from his friend Mark, who lives in Yokohama. “The Power Rangers were fighting some sort of bi-pedal scorpion type creature rampaging around my school the other day. It was kind of awkward, but I figured this was a chance in a lifetime and she was really cute, so I tried to hit on the yellow ranger. Unfortunately she was, literally, tied up at the moment (with some sort of web-like strings) and we only briefly had a chance to chat before she had to go back to work. Maybe next time – the Power Rangers actually do a lot of battling with monsters around my school. You'd think it would be inconvenient, but...”) Maybe Jose should cut Japan some slack. Any country where an American guy can actually hit on a female power ranger can’t be all bad. Also, what are the odds that Gabe Kapler becomes a Power Ranger in his spare time? That seems like a pretty good fit.

2. Despite receiving a two year $26 million offer from the WORLD CHAMPION RED SOX, Pedro Martinez is still complaining about respect. Now everyone assumes that for Pedro respect means money – not an unreasonable assumption, but is it really correct? Respect can be shown in the form of cars, boats and shiny trinkets. It can also be shown in the form of securities. What about intellectual property? Couldn’t that be a form of respect? Perhaps Tom Werner could give Pedro the rights to "That 80s Show" as a sign of respect. Some might argue that would be a sign of disrespect, but Jose disagrees. Giving Pedro the rights to "That 80s show would say, "Pedro, not only are you a great pitcher, I believe you are so smart that you can save even this fatally flawed concept."

But maybe Pedro isn’t referring to these sorts of things when he speaks of respect. Maybe he really is like the recalcitrant teenager he has so often been compared to. And maybe like all teenagers (Note: By which Jose means none) what he really wants is the Sox to show him that they respect or love him enough to set limits. Maybe, just maybe, all Pedro is looking for is for John Henry to give him a big hug and say "Pedro, I respect you, but you need to get a haircut, show up on time and straighten up and fly right."

On the other hand, maybe they should just give him the rights to "The Cosby Show."

3. The Red Sox shook up their minor league organization this week by promoting Ron Johnson from manager of the Double A Portland Sea Dogs Manager to manager of the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox. Johnson will be replaced in Portland by Todd Claus. Claus is expected to assume his duties after he completes his current job delivering toys to Christian children worldwide on December 25. It is also possible that Claus will wait until after January 6, Orthodox Christmas, to assume his new duties.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE HOT STOVE.

Monday, November 22


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE PATRIOTS GAME.

1. Football has long been presented as a metaphor for war, with its formations, aerial bombardments and ground assaults. (Note: Thank you George Carlin. See Jose will never get caught plagiarizing from Carlin a la Mike Barnacle. If Jose ever gets caught plagiarizing, it will be stealing from someone big, like Dostoyevsky or possibly Melville. But get caught plagiarizing a comedian, even a great one? Jose would prefer not to.) So if football is like war, but without the death, pillage and shattered families what is the best analogy for this Patriots team? (Note: Okay, football has shattered families.)

Bruised, bloodied and broken, their strongest defenders shattered by injury, the Patriots have miraculously persisted and continued to win. Jose thinks one must go all the way back into ancient history for the right analogy and reflect on the story of Hanukah. Hanukah is actually a war story. The holiday commemorates the victory of a group of Jews led by Judah Maccabe (Note: Literally Judah the Hammer) over the Syrians who had occupied the Temple in Jerusalem and built a statue of Zeus there. (Note: Zeus the Greek God, not Zeus the character from the Hulk Hogan vehicle “No Holds Barred.”) Similarly, the Kansas City Chiefs have defiled our Temple by building a statue of Len Dawson in it.


We don’t have a Temple?

Well, where do we sacrifice livestock to God then?

“We’re not Raiders fans, we don’t kill live animals at football games,” you say?

Well, then. Okay, maybe the battle itself is a bad analogy, but what happened afterward is a better analogy. In order to purify the Temple, the Jews needed to burn ritually purified olive oil continuously, but they only had enough oil for one day and pressing new oil would take eight days. Miraculously, the miniscule amount of oil lasted for eight days, long enough for new oil to be pressed and sanctified.

Why is this a good analogy? Well, having success in the NFL with Randall Gay and Asante Samuel (Note: Or Earthwind Moreland) as your cornerbacks is also a miracle. Maybe it isn’t a miracle like, say, walking on water or parting the Red Sea, but it is of about the same magnitude as one day’s worth of oil lasting for about eight days. (Note: On the other hand winning in the NFL with Eric Warfield and William Bartee of the Chiefs as your corners is the equivalent of parting the Red Sea, and Jose does not expect the Red Sea to divide in two this evening at 9 PM EST.)

Wait…you have something else to say? You want to say that this is also a really stupid analogy and has almost nothing to do with war? That the first siege of Vienna is a far better analogy?

Hmmm…well, yes that may be true, Jose supposes, but now Jose has introduced a story that will allow him to refer to hard hitting Patriots safety as Rodney Harrison as Rodney Maccabe or Rodney the Hammer from now on. (Note: Jose wishes he’d thought about this during baseball season. Wouldn’t Manny Maccabe have been a solid nickname?) And isn’t that really what the holiday season is all about?

2. As for the Chiefs, Jose would like to say that their defensive line is analogous to the famed Maginot line of interwar France, a mighty defensive line that’s only weakness was that it could be easily circumvented by column after column after column of German panzers. Of course this analogy is also inapt, as it is just as easy to run through the Chiefs’ defensive line as it is to run around it.

3. Jose would love to get Chiefs wide receiver Dante Hall, mediocre second baseman Homer Bush, former Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase valet Virgil and free agent pitcher Eric Milton together in a room and just listen to them talk about epic poetry.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE PATRIOTS GAME.