The Art of Throwing Things
Doug types too much...
September 12, 2018
Picture this scene.
It’s the early 1960s.
You’re a normal blue collar Joe reading your paper at the breakfast table. Your car is parked in your small driveway outside your nook window. One at a time, rocks rain down on your car. Repeatedly. You beeline out of your house and around the building to find the source of the pelting.
And there stands grade-schooler Doug Bari and a friend, competing with each other to see who can throw the most rocks over the roof of the building. With no idea a guy’s car was parked on the other side.
He was pissed. And that is an understatement.
I’ve thrown a lot of things in my life. Mostly snowballs.
In my early grade school years, I became quite the one-man-army. I was good at it. Because I experimented. I was the first kid on the block to figure out I could MacGyver a regular snowball into something special.
City kids hanging out with each other was often a crapshoot. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhoods and often it was random who decided to stop by and play. But we were kids. We didn’t care who stopped by as long as they wanted to be a playmate. However, there were exceptions. One in particular comes to mind.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call him Joey. I have no idea what happened to this kid. The last time I saw him was 55 years ago.
Joey was a kid I knew peripherally from school and I’d see him around my neighborhood, but he never wanted to hang out. He was a little bigger than me. We were oil and water, even at that undeveloped age.
But there came a short period of a few days where it seemed we were the only kids around, so we pretended we were friends. It was winter. Cold. Lots of snow on the ground.
Joey was not a nice boy. Not by a long shot. In my very first encounter with Joey, he had to go home early. He did it to himself.
Joey and I were playing in the back parking lot of my apartment building when an alley cat walked by. Joey reached down without warning and grabbed the cat by its tail. He lifted the hissing cat up to face level and dangled it, laughing. The cat clawed at him, but we were wearing heavy coats and mittens.
Then Joey swung the cat around in a circle over his head.
Don’t jerk yet. Take heart. The story has kind of a happy ending.
I think Joey’s idea was to get the cat swinging around and then let it go flying. Well, the swinging part happened. Maybe 2 revolutions. And that’s when the cat shat. Diarrhea. And lots of it. In one big SPLAT. There must have been feline aim involved because while I remained spotless, Joey was covered from head to toe including all over his face.
So the cat didn’t get flung. Just dropped to the ground where it promptly ran as far away from us as it could.
And Joey went home to explain things to his mother.
My history with Joey may have been brief, but it was fruitful.
The following day he returned with a different outfit and wanted to have a snowball fight. We would build forts and plan for an all-out war between just him and me. Day one was prep. The war wouldn’t happen until the following day.
I was determined to win the war.
On prep day, we both built some pretty solid forts with walls and cut-out windows. Inside our respective fortresses, we spent the remainder of prep day putting together our arsenals. Making snowballs.
There was serious intent here. The reason the war wouldn’t happen until day two was because we both decided it would be wise to allow our snowballs to freeze into ice overnight.
That’s bad intent. No doubt about it. But I wanted to Doug Bari the situation a little. Unbeknownst to Joey, I had dug through a patch of snow down to the gravel driveway where I was able to recover some ping-pong ball-sized rocks to embed inside my grenades.
I didn’t stop there. After Joey left his fort for the day, I took my snowballs and rolled them in a pan of water – not enough to disintegrate them, just enough to make sure my snowballs were more lethal than Joey’s. More ice yields better concussions.
Yep. Kids are industrious.
On day two, we had a free-for-all. Lobbing ice balls at each other and our forts. How fortunate we were that during those exchanges, we never actually hit each other, just the walls of our forts.
In the end, not much progress for the human race.
Joey came over one day when there was no snow on the ground. Joey had a cowboy hat on, so we decided to play cowboys, but that quickly devolved into a dark place. With the snow gone, gravel rocks were readily available. Joey and I decided to have a rock-throwing contest. At each other. We literally stood probably 20 feet apart and hurled rocks at each other as fast as we could pick them up.
I’ve never been a sports guy, but one of my favorite throwers was Sandy Koufax. For some reason, his personality captivated me. Perhaps because he was a southpaw. A little bit of an outsider.
Well, I found my inner Sandy that day despite my typically bad aim. I managed to bean Joey directly in the center of his forehead with a fist-sized rock and he split like a melon.
There are wounds that bleed right away. Then there are wounds that wait a second to react to the trauma. Those bleed a lot. As Joey stepped back to assess what I’m sure was a constellation going off in his brain, blood poured down his face.
I was immediately scared. Joey was just stunned. Stumbling around trying to get his bearings. He wanted to go in and tell my mother. I knew what that meant, so I encouraged him to not follow his own wise advice. I told him he should go home.
“Pull your hat down – it doesn’t look as bad that way.”
Joey did go home, but he told my mother first. She was understandably freaked.
I got spanked and sent to my room without supper.
Before I fell asleep, Joey showed up at our door with his very angry mother.
I wasn’t asked to join the party in the living room, but I distinctly heard their conversation and I remember the mom telling my mother I’d better get a good beating out of this. Joey cheered his mother on, although I’m sure his facial expressions were modified due to the tightness of his stitches.
In my kid mind, I was pissed at Joey and his mom. I’d already been punished. And they wanted more on top of that?
I never hung out with Joey after that. I don’t even think I ever saw him again in school. Maybe he knew better than to mess with Sandy Koufax and kept his distance.
I kept my skills sharp. In 1963, at the age of 7 or 8, I decided it would be funny to throw a snowball at my little brother’s father Big Burt. Burt was a kind man and not prone to attacking people. He was shoveling and I caught him right in the side of his face with a large snowball. It surprised him. And it hurt. His face instantly reddened.
He chased me up the street. All the way up the block. When he caught me, he shoved my face into a snowbank and rubbed it in.
I had that one coming.
Big Burt didn’t hold a grudge about it. The lesson had been learned.
A few years later, a friend and I stood on the side of a hill and threw snowballs at the windshields of passing cars. Dangerous stuff, but when you’re 11, you’re thinking more about how much fun it is to scare people.
One car stopped. A burly guy in a suit and overcoat jumped out. He chased us. We hid behind a neighbor’s house as he rang their doorbell. We heard him tell the woman who answered that he was an off-duty policemen and wanted to talk to us.
We weren’t discovered and the guy went away. To this day, I wonder if he really was a cop or was he just trying to scare us.
Either way, consider me scared. I never did that again. The payback is I’ve had kids do it to me now that I’m the one behind the wheel.
Post-childhood, the art of throwing continued to follow me.
In 1985, when Judy and I got married, we started out at very high levels of passion. That included arguing. I can’t remember the last time we had a real argument, but in our early days, tempers could flare. So the agreement we made was that if we were going to throw things, it had to be something unbreakable. We settled on Tupperware.
It may not have happened more than a couple of times, but I distinctly remember the first instance where I exited the kitchen in a huff and a Tupperware mixing bowl flew past my head and bounced off the wall in front of me.
Our early marriage throwing period was brief.
My last official throwing engagement was in December of 2012. We were filming a scene outside for our movie Faux Paws. The throwing came at the tail end of a relationship argument with my co-star Brian. I’m repairing our broken-down van and I hurl my screwdriver as far as I can in frustration.
Now right before we filmed that argument, we’d done a scene where I slipped and fell and snapped my #9 and 10 ribs. I was hurting.
We filmed the throwing-the-screwdriver scene probably 9 times. You can hear my shortness of breath in the takes. Frankly, after that experience, I was done with throwing.
My wife Judy watches a fair amount of flipper shows on the home networks. Sometimes I endure. I have often commented there are no throwing shows. I don’t want to see the person install the center tile on the floor and then cut to the floor done with everybody high-fiving.
No. Where’s the part in between where you get to the edge of your floor where the tiles don’t quite match up? The part where you throw the tools around.
In my Walter Mitty fantasy life, I imagine what it would be like to act with abandon like some of my heroes.
Bette Davis was famous for throwing food at her screen when something on the TV set her off. Her weapon of choice was often potato salad because it stuck to the screen better.
Led Zeppelin had a penchant for throwing TVs out of their hotel room windows to splash into swimming pools below.
And God bless Elvis. He didn’t throw the TV, he just took out a .44 and shot out the screen from his seat on the couch.
So, yeah. I throw things. Or did. Mostly snowballs with an occasional screwdriver thrown in. Not saying I’m above skipping a stone here and there. But mostly if I’m going to throw anything now, it’s more likely a party.
If Joey is still alive, I wonder if he still has any remnant of his scar.
And if he does, I wonder if anyone ever asks him about it.
Score one for the cat.