*Editor’s Note – The Adventures of Gutt & Pole is a recurring series that focuses on my life with my compadres – viewed through a slightly skewed lens. In some issues, Pole is well represented. In others, Gutt is joined by a rogue’s gallery of other associates for solo stories. Kinda’ like the time the X-Men popped in on Spiderman & His Amazing Friends.
Superhero nicknames are pretty ridiculous. Oh sure, the anonymity afforded by an alias helps protect Superman’s secret identity (not to mention the sheer magic of the horned-rim – for all I know, he’s Lisa Loeb). But when you get right down to it – the fact that these superhero teams go around calling each other by their double secret code name, is a bit foolish.
Think back to that first X-Men flick, where Patrick Stewart’s Professor X goes on a 5 minute discourse laying out everyone’s secret identities:
“This is Ororo Monroe. Also called Storm. And he is Scott Summers. Also known as Cyclops. And this hot momma is Jean Grey. Also known as… ahmmm, well, geez this is awkward… Jean Grey. Damn’t Beast. Why didn’t anyone give Jean a nickname? Get on it now. Make it so.”
Anyway, all this is preamble to my own deep, dark secret.
The Ed Humphries you think you know. The Ed Humphries you’ve pictured as a mild mannered family man. The Ed Humphries that writes for this Blog – pontificating on the plight of the Playstation 3 or The Top 5 Prison Date Movies. That Ed Humphries is a front – a fraud – a phony. For I harbor a secret identity.
I am Raisinhead!!!
Like all memorable heroes, I didn’t choose to be Raisinhead. Raisinhead found me. With great power comes great responsibility. This morning marked the 623rd consecutive day that I forgot to pack my own lunch.
To understand what it means to be Raisinhead, we need to plumb the depths of recent history. Specifically, we need to do the time warp back to the Fall of 1995. The setting – Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, MA – at the time, home of your lowly bunch of good-for-nothing sad sacks, the New England Patriots. (Yes – it appears my brush with greatness prefaced the Pats metamorphosis into heroes of legend by a good 6 years.)
At the time, I was one year removed from college – toiling away at my first big-time professional gig, Putnam. I didn’t make much scratch and what little padded my purse went quickly on shelter and sustenance (I’m walking proof that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – I’ve eating so many Hot Pockets I’m practically bullet proof.) So, there wasn’t a great deal of expendable cash to dole out.
Temptation entered in the guise of my buddy Timm Haskins. (To this day, I suspect the extra ‘m’ Timm had applied to his moniker was lifted off poor BoSox skipper Jimy Williams.) Anyway, Timm was one of the fortunate few who scored mass numbers of Pats season tickets well before the team would hit the stratosphere. (In fact, it was only a couple years earlier that my dorm mates and I would gather around the communal television looking to catch the big game only to be met with a black screen – the result of ample tickets still available at Foxboro.) So, Timm was a good guy to know. If you had $30 to spare, you could vault the velvet rope and join Timm, his bros and buds, for an all-day afternoon of grillin’ and tossin’ the pigskin.
It was on one chilly afternoon – as the skies above Foxboro were “the color of television tuned to a dead channel” – that Raisinhead was born.
On this particular day, we started our caloric intake with a 9 a.m. breakfast of bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches and beer. At 10 a.m. we chased that down with grilled chicken and beer. 11 a.m. brought sausages and beer. 12 p.m. served up steak and beer. 12:02 p.m. We ate the football… and beer. 12:05 p.m. We broke the seal. 12:10 p.m. Back to the bathroom. 12:12 p.m. Mosey back on over to the outhouse. 12:14 p.m. Skip to the loo, my darling. (There’s a reason football comes but once a week.)
Eventually we would stifle the grill and queue up behind our fellow men for the security pat down. Of course, in those days – pre 911 – you got a once over and were on your merry way (the security folks none the wiser to the keg of Heine you had stashed in your Hoodie pocket.)
At the time, in the old stadium, Timm’s seats were situated at the very last row – perched at 32,000 feet above sea level. Fortunately, I never travel anywhere without my personal Sherpa, so the trip usually went fairly quickly. It was during one of these games – as I settled in to the cool confines of my 2” x 2” slab of aluminum ass shelf – that a quick glance to my right revealed one of those ‘small world’ examples. Not more than three rows from where I sat – with only the wind beneath my wings – sat my uncles Bill, Don and Tom. I caught their gaze, we exchanged pleasantries (apparently an upraised middle digit is the Newfie way of saying Aloha), and I pledged to visit the boys sometime ‘round half time.
Now – before we scramble past the next two quarters – I owe a bit of back story which should help paint the corners in Raisinhead’s origin tale. Anyone who had seen a film at a General Cinemas theater in the early 90’s should be familiar with the Candy Band. This was a CGI-enhanced rock group, fronted by a Coke, a box of popcorn, a package of Twizzlers and a Raisinettes bag. The group was heir apparent to the dancing hot dog of the 60’s who topped the U.K. charts with his hit ditty, “Let’s All Go to the Movies”. They changed members so many times over the decades, they were practically the Menudo of the Multiplex.
Anyway, at the tail end of the short, the Raisinette box gets his shnoz stuck in the closing screen. When the screen pulls back, he has this huge sheepish grin. Timm was convinced that my smile was a dead ringer for the Raisenette’s and thus dubbed me, Raisinette. Now, he usually called me Ed – never Raisentte – but he loved to tell people the tale and most people took a look at me – got me to smile in some fashion – and then deduced that Timm was spot on.
Which brings us back to half time. I ambled over to visit my uncles bearing a complimentary round of stomach pumps – you know get them back to Earth in a more coherent state so we could continue on with a little jaw session. At some point, as we were discussing which tiny dot was a hot cheerleader and which was Parcells, I heard the chant rise from my left.
“Oh no!”, I thought. All I needed was my uncles to glom onto “Raisinette” and I’d never enjoy another family reunion. The change began to increase in tempo.
Just ignore. Play possum. If they think you’re dead, maybe they’ll go away. Unfortunately, alcohol is a great conductor, and the drunks between my drunken friends and my drunken uncles began to join in the fun. All together now!!!
At that point, my Uncle Bill began to catch wind that something was stirring in the wind.
Uncle Bill: Raisin Head??? What the hell is Raisin Head???
My Uncle noticed that Timm appeared to be the ringleader (the conductor’s wand and megaphone being the big giveaway) and began to motion for his attention.
Uncle Bill: HEYYYYY!!! WHO’S RAISIN HEAD???
Timm: (Pointing squarely at me) HIM!!!
Uncle Bill: (turning to me) YOU!!! YOU’RE RAISIN HEAD??? (Bear in mind, this question was posed in the same cadence as if he’d just located Osama.)
Raisin Head: WHAT??? RAISIN HEAD??? NOOOO!!! YOU GOT IT ALL WRONG. HE SAID RAISINETTE!!! (Yeah, that ought to get him off your case. Some days I’m a regular Cochrane.)
My uncle Bill would have none of it. He knew he had a juicy tale and with the mob whipped into such a frenzy, he knew that the right statement – well hewn and constructed – could launch him into the lofty perch as Mayor of Row 4,273. He addressed the crowd.
Uncle Bill: HEYYYYYYYY!!!!! WE’VE GOT OURSELVES A RAISIN HEAD HERE!!!
And then the chant began in earnest – with my uncles adding their voices to the chorus.
As the game went on, more people joined in. They began to cheer every great play, every sack and every touchdown with the same refrain. A little ditty that grew more catchy, the more the beer flowed.
Finally the game ended and we all headed home. I wasn’t due to attend another game for several weeks and I figured that by the time the next game rolled around, those that bore witness to the birth of Raisin Head would surely have forgotten or shuffled off this mortal coil (in those days tailgating carried a 63% mortality rate).
Of course, Timm kept me abreast of the situation at the stadium (as there was one game that I could not attend) and he wanted me to know that the chant of RAYYY-ZENNNNN HEAD continued in earnest with quite a few more voices added to the mix. He estimated half of the section had joined in and he was hoping to get some members of the press corp involved in the next contest. The word is Gene Lavanchy does a mean drunken warble.
The next home game, I arrived and found Timm was a man of his word. No sooner did I round the corner and begin my ascent to Section 5,968, I was greeted with a rousing chorus of RAYYY-ZENNNNN HEAD. I kept my composure for a few beats before tipping my cap to the crowd. They erupted in applause. I checked my watch. My ‘Fifteen Minutes’ were on.
That game continued like the prior game, with every celebration punctuated by our special cheer. Late in the game, I decided I had to take leave a bit early. As I was leaving, the chant trailed me. After I left, the legend formed. Tim recounted tales (later backed up by my uncles) that Raisin Head became an urban myth passed around (I currently edge out Candyman but have trailed Bloody Mary for years.). When a fight broke out in one of the lower sections, some guy, many rows below, bellowed “HEYYYYYY, RAYYY-ZENNNNN HEAD IS FIGHTING THE COPS!!!” Shortly afterward, a car turned onto Route 1 and plowed into an oncoming bus. From a neighboring section came this breaking news, “HEYYYY, RAYYY-ZENNNN HEAD WAS FLEEING THE COPS AND PLOWED INTO THAT BUS!!!” Rumor has it – by 4th quarter – the crowd had me pegged as a substitute tight end – which promoted another round of RAYYY-ZENNNN HEAD and the Hollywood Slow Clap (you know – where one guy claps in support of the underdog and then everyone else joins in unison.)
The cult of Raisin Head was born. There was one game that I was supposed to attend but ended up bagging due to a last minute excursion to my alma mater UMASS Amherst. Timm’s brother Terry – a regular – had brought his nine year-old son to the game. All week long, Terry filled his young brain with the Astonishing Tales of Raisin Head. How he could bend steel with his nose. How he once took on 38 Theater Ushers in a steel caged death match over a limited edition bootleg copy of She’s the Man. How he was the unofficial 5th member of super group, The California Raisins, who quit out of protest when it became more about the merchandising and less about the music. Needless to say, his kid was holding out for a hero.
As for Raisin Head, I was a no show. Terry’s son sat waiting for ‘Santa’ to arrive – but alas, this would be the week without a Raisin Head. Terry let me know that his son had given up on believing in angels that day.
And – as I predicted – every family gathering was punctuated with a rousing round of RAYYY-ZENNNN HEAD. I remember pulling into my Uncle Bill’s house on one cool Christmas afternoon. The doors to his place flew open and my uncles hit the streets belting out the only carol they knew.
The following year, our company softball league was in full swing when our team made the playoffs. We ended up winning it all and garnered sweatshirts commemorating the event. When mine arrived – it read “1996 Putnam Softball Champions” and then below that, the mark of the beast – “Raisin Head.”
Of course, as with most ill-fitting clothes, eventually they tear and are retired. Raisin Head survived the better part of the 90’s – but around the end of the century – the world busied itself with far graver concerns. Come January 1, 2000 the world was expected to plunge back to the Stone Age. We needed more tech heads and fewer raisin heads to stave off armageddon.
We don’t hear much about Raisin Head ‘round these parts anymore. But locals swear that when the moon is full, and the air is still, you can hear the faint reprise:
Followed by a mournful:
Beer man!!! Bring me anothah!!!