• Once again told off that high school guidance counselor who suggested he “Think small,” in language not fit for 12-year-old athletes or 40-year-old Teamsters.
• Felt so lucky he immediately bet his family’s entire savings at the track, only to see his money be pocketed by the operators of the slotcar derby.
• Repeatedly ran around the bases with the trophy held high over his head, caring not that his pants fell down or it was well past midnight.
• Drank from the trophy’s cup. Waited for immortality. Then for power of flight. Then for the metallic taste to stop making him throw up.
• Cried so hard in joy that his players quietly backed away and went to their parents’ cars so as to not have to watch an adult fall to his knees and scream to the heavens.
Dahlia After Dark is a call-in talk/music dedication nightly radio program currently syndicated to almost 200 stations across the United States as well as to listeners in the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station (most of whom request beach songs and generally talk about wanting to bludgeon every other scientist on their team, often with a penguin).
Hosted by the mononymously-named Dahlia (formerly Alice Blotts), the program is broadcast from a home studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it began as a pirate radio program in 1992 under the title The Screaming Trees Mega-Mix Hour. But due to a growing and avid listener base as well as a time slot (midnight to 5 am) best suited for the despondent, lovelorn, and people taking a break from scrawling manifestos in composition notebooks, the show quickly evolved into its present incarnation of chatting people up, talking people down, and picking just the right song to lift spirits, soothe jangled nerves, and cut off anguished screams.
In addition to being a longtime radio host, Dahlia has authored several bestselling self-help/relationship books, including Dahlia Is Listening, Dahlia Hears What You’re Saying, Dahlia Would Like to Say Something, Dahlia Needs You to Stop Talking for Just One Damn Second, and Dahlia Has Heard Enough. She also pens a series of self-published ebooks as “Evagelinia Delacroix” that fall under the literary genre “Vampire/Dinosaur/Tentacle Romance.”
Dahlia After Dark also features a Saturday night spinoff radio program called “Ladies Night” with a listener demographic of almost 100% men, all hoping the one called “Terri” calls back.
See? The kids didn’t collide with an oncoming truck in a PSA about drunk driving. And surely Garrick’s exclamation is him being thankful that everything turned out alllllllll right, yes?
After all, as Abbey tells a true-to-character Neddy (“There’s no way Sophie can come to harm because there’s no way she can miss my big day”), when it comes to the Spencer-Driver family things are almost always quite similar to Geoffrey Rush’s outlook in Shakespeare in Love…
Unless, of course, the band van is no longer on the road.
Today hopefully is a slight correction course from yesterday’s strip, in which I gave Neddy the musical knowledge of a 49-year-old Gen Xer with song titles that threw off most millennials. (That’s not a dig. It was a bad call on my part.) But mostly it was a line that did not fit the tone of Judge Parker. There will probably be a few more such glaring errors (the sudden daylight at Spencer Farms, however, is a colorist glitch) along the way since I’ve already written several weeks of scripts. But it is something I’m very mindful of now. Plus, as I got further into the writing I believe I got a better grasp of the strip, so I think/hope/blindly hope you will enjoy what is on the horizon.
But yeah, “Oh God Oh God Oh God” almost never means anything good.
On the other hand, I got to say “butt-dialed,” a curse word, and maybe kill five teens (and a trucker) in my first four days, so it’s been a good week. Or my last week.
NOTE: Because daily strip coloring is outsourced and not done by the artist, mistakes are sometimes made. So readers should know that today’s strip is supposed to take place at NIGHT, not two in the afternoon.
SECOND NOTE: The rhythm of the dialogue is a vestige of writing Sally Forth for 19 years. I love writing Sally Forth. I love the tone of that strip. (I’m not articulating my arm to pat my own back, I just write a strip I would want to read and hope others think the same or phrase their cutting, insightful insults with happy emojis.) But this is a different comic with its own voice. I would chalk today’s Judge Parker comic to being a stumble to getting on the right path…that goes right through the guard rails.
THIRD NOTE: Because some have wondered, the songs were chosen for their ungodly running times (which, when combined, will actually still play when all existence reaches its conclusion and then starts all over again) and for no reason but what popped in my head at the moment, they both involve being in a car late at night. That said, those are not songs Neddy would mention. Again, the last of Ted in this strip, minus him in the background gawking at any possible wreckage.
For the third year in his long career as a Little League coach, Ted Forth has shepherded a team to the championship game. The first time they made it to the final game they lost at the bottom of the ninth (well, sixth, since it’s Little League), resulting in a Bad News Bears-like finale only without the cursing or beer or sponsorship by a bail bonds company.
With the team’s second appearance in the championship game, they won it all. And thought that provided Ted with a moment of pure, euphoric, almost rapturous joy, it also summoned within him a fear he had peaked. That he would never taste such glorious victory again, resulting in years and years of reminding players who weren’t even on the (in Ted’s mind) mythical team how they were not living up to that year’s standards. (Never mind that years went by yet everyone remained the same age.) It was as if The Rime of the Ancient Mariner had become about a middle-aged guy who achieved glory via 12-year-old players and somehow was still haunted by it, mostly because there was a rather decent chance Ted was going to wear the championship trophy around his neck.
And now we find ourselves halfway through this year’s World Series of Little League…if “series” can be used to denote a single game and by “world” we mean the players’ hometown. Hilary is rushing to the field to make it in time to watch or play. Nona is experiencing conflicted emotions. Jenny is coping with all the pressure of being a winning but first-season pitcher. And Faye is getting increasingly annoyed with everyone.
Also, Ted’s motivational speeches seem to consist of “Deny reality and you’ll be fine. That’s how I’ve been getting through life all these years.”