Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Beast Purrs, NOLA Sighs with relief, and More Baur Bad Luck

I turned the key in the ignition and thought something was wrong. It was too quiet.

Of course it was. I was in the parking lot at the mechanic's, after waiting an hour and a half for the repair of the broken exhaust pipe, and paying an enormous amount of money. Now the car was so quiet I was startled. I turned off the ignition, went back into the garage and found Vaughn, that guy who'd done the repair, and shook his hand.

The Beast, as we call it, is a nine-year-old Chevy Astro that at one time was a cab on Key West. It is hardly finished or fixed, but it's a lot quieter. A lot. But it still uses too much oil, and I have to keep a close eye on the radiator. I always carry a gallon of coolant and a couple of quarts of oil in the back – just in case.

But driving down the road, taking Tori to work or Millie to the optometrist or Max to rehearsal, I revel in the fact that I can accelerate and not frighten people inside the houses I drive by.

RELIEF – The city is palpably more relaxed this week after the Saints finally got off the schneid and won a game, a game in which QB Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas's 52-year-old record by throwing a TD pass in his 48th consecutive game. Given that LSU had lost ugly the day before to Florida, if the Saints had fallen to the Chargers or Brees not tossed a TD or – Heaven forbid! – if both of those heinous possibilities had come to pass, they'd have had to close the bridges to keep people from jumping.

But at least for a week God is smiling down on the bayou, and people are feeling as if life might go on.
Speaking of sports and the Baur Curse, and pardon me if you don't care, but I was watching glimpses of the Notre Dame game Saturday in between running kids hither and yon, and I remember another classic example of Baur family bad luck.

In 1970 we had just moved to L.A., and one of the guys who worked for my father had played football for Notre Dame. He got dad two tickets to watch the Irish play Southern Cal, on the Notre Dame side of the stands. We were rooting for the Golden Domers, of course. (And for those of you who don't know, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are sometimes referred to as the Golden Domers because of their gold helmets and the gold dome of the campus chapel.)

The Irish were ranked second in the nation, had only lost one game, if memory serves. They had Joe Theisman at quarterback. SC was having a down year, they were 5-4. We had great seats, between the 40s, about 15 rows up, and were excited for the chance to cheer for our favorite team.

It was ugly. On a cold, gray day, USC came out of nowhere and shut the Irish down. The score was close, but the game wasn't. There was just no sense that Notre Dame was going to get anything going, and USC cruised to victory.

And somewhere, about five or six rows behind us, was a fan who felt like he knew what Notre Dame should be doing and kept offering his advice to Coach Parseghian.

With leather lungs that pierced the gloom of the subdued Notre Dame rooting section, he kept shouting, "Give it to the Tank!' No. 24! Gutowski! Give it to the Tank!"

His advice began in the second quarter, and continued unabated through the rest of the game. Every time Notre Dame had the ball, "Give it to the Tank! Gutowski!" louder and more insistent as the game wore to its dismal conclusion.

After the game, Dad and I started our slog back to the car, which we had parked on the streets instead of paying for parking. Naturally, we couldn't find it. And it started raining.

For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles, Memorial Coliseum is not located in the best part of town. It's in South Central L.A., Watts, which just a few years earlier had been torn apart by the race riots of the '60s. Boarded up, burned out buildings dotted every block. It was not a great place for a small, middle-aged white guy and his 15-year-old son to wander from street to street.

Fortunately, the rain poured down in sheets. No one in their right mind would have been out but us. Water came up over the curbs, we were wading half the time. It goes without saying that we had brought no rain gear.

We finally found the car, about 45 minutes later, and drove home.

So don't think the family's bad mojo only affects the teams we root for. It has plenty left over to splash all over us as well.

Update/Correction:  In an earlier version of this post I said the Saints would play the Packers next week. Stupid. They played them a week ago. They're on their bye now, and in two weeks they get Tampa, which hasn't been p-laying any better than they do. LSU, however, hosts South Carolina next weekend, and the Gamecocks last week butchered a very good Georgia team. So that might not be good.

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