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Friday, November 14, 2014

Sunday Evening Comin' Down

I

Nothing good has ever come of Sunday night. The stuff you blew off Friday thinking you had two glorious days off to forget about it....and then, Sunday night creeps upon you and you come face to face with the reality of your situation.

No matter when it is on, day or night, whenever I hear the ending theme from "The Honeymooners" while the credits are rolling, like Pavlov's dog, I plummet to a low... deep, deep within myself. It stems from Sunday night. As a kid, I would routinely blow off weekend homework. The last thing I remember before having to try and get some sleep was the ending music from "The Honeymooners", as it  ended at 11:30 on WPIX Channel 11. Like a bad song you can't quit humming, it haunts me years later.

I spent a few years in military school, not because I was a problem kid, I was good kid, I just could not seem to apply myself in school, and Ma and Pa thought Military School might be the key. Let me state for the record that I do not blame them whatsoever for sending me, I deserved it. I was a fuck up who only thought about getting high and masturbating to pictures of women until, of course, I could actually have a real one.

 The few instances I was able to get home for a weekend, in a flash it would be late Sunday afternoon and the long drive back to school would happen. As I write this I can still feel it, it even leaves a discernible taste in my mouth. I lived in Northern NJ and the school was in Southern NJ so it was a bit of a trip. The setting sun on the ride down, especially on a Fall night, was horribly depressing, once again Sunday night nipping at my ass. I was homesick, the school had more than it's share of sadistic bullies and I knew they would get around to me sooner or later. They did, goddamn it.

Now that I think on it, I have always wondered why I fucking hate football so. So many Sunday late afternoons when I had to go back to school I recall a football game being on. I am ruled by the Pavlov Dog quotient.

Then one Sunday, before I had to back to school, I slipped out of the house and walked to the bus stop and caught a bus to NYC. I had no plan, I was just leaving. It didn't matter if it was a day or an hour, just as long as I didn't have to return to school. The ultimate Sunday procrastination.

II

Sitting on the bus going through the Lincoln Tunnel I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to town, it was "The Catcher in the Rye" come to life and I wasn't even aware it at the time. To be sure, nothing had been thought out in advance, I was just killing time until something, I had no idea what, happened. The bus groaned to a halt inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal and a night of craziness, loneliness and depression began.

New York City in the late 60's was a grimy, seedy,
 dangerous place. The Bus Terminal was ground zero for everything that was depraved and perverted in this down and out town. Terminal was the correct word for this disgusting place I was walking through. Everyone looked tired and haggard. People working in the shabby places of business along the corridor looked for the world as if one foot was deep in the cold earth. The "Post and Coach" bar was a staple in the building, an old man bar if there ever was one. The alcoholic business men, who needed one last fix before the sad trip home to their living hell in the suburbs, would crowd the bar in their sad, tired brown suits, fedoras and cheesy brown wing tip shoes. Tonight, a Sunday, it was closed. Even the "Post and Coach" had the Sunday blues.

III

I could feel his stare on back, making me feel like a child who had lost his mother. I turned and saw him at the top of the escalator glaring at me, I instinctively knew what would happen if I stuck around. Looking for a cop and seeing none, I walked quickly to the automatic front doors.
The first thing that hit me was the overpowering smell of exhaust fumes. All the bus fumes, past and present, seemed to linger right in front of the terminal. Cars jammed 8th Avenue and colored lights from all the porn palaces of degenerate Times Square winked and prodded you to partake in their pleasures. Every form of bizarre cretin known to humankind was present, slinking and shuffling around. One guy with greased back hair and a pimply face dragged on a cigarette, coughed, dropped the butt and ground it out. The ground was littered with butts, paper bags, soda and beer cans and all sorts of bits of paper. A tired old lady pulled a small cart loaded with all her worldly possessions, an old cloth coat  covering her extremities and ankles so puffy and bloated I wondered how she could walk, she did walk, but very slowly, mumbling all the while. From the shadows an employee of the Port Authority came forth struggling with an ancient push broom. The trash presented a monumental task for her to conquer. First off she was at least 101 years old, thin as a rail, and equally as frail looking. She wore a filthy old Yankee ball cap and had the ever present cigarette dangling from her mouth. She pushed the trash to no particular place, it seemed, at the pace of a sloth on Prozac. As a bus groaned and wheezed by I turned to go to the only place I could think of, Madison Square Garden which was about 7 blocks south.

IV


The Sunday night crowd in New York was different than most nights. Most folks who were out were going to the theater or dinner or something like that. The commuter crowd was back in the burbs. What was left were the true dregs of society. The guy running the sidewalk newsstand with no legs. The swarthy foreigner selling what looked for all the world like rat on a stick. He had a metal shopping cart with a hobo-chi inside cooking this foul shish kebab to delectable brownish-gray. Gangs of thugs and cheap looking whores in the corner pizza joints and a glimpse could be caught of old men in long trench coats perusing the stacks of fresh porno mags inside the "Peep-O-Rama".

Outside the Garden was the wonderful smell of roasting chestnuts. The same metal shopping carts were used, the bottom spread with foil with charcoal briquettes on top of that smoldering away. A rack directly above the charcoal had the chestnuts. Every Ranger hockey game I had ever gone to had that smell hit you when you left the building after the game. It calmed me down and gave me a sense of security. Besides Basketball and Ice Hockey, the Garden had a lot of "on the side venues". One of those was a bowling alley. I entered the "Garden" an rode the escalator to the 2nd floor and entered the bowling lane area. Sitting on a sticky orange resin chair I watched the old guys bowl a few frames. "I can't keep this going too damn long" I mused. I exited the building and started to circle it. About a 1/4 way around I came to the the theatre venue called "The Felt Forum". There was a small crowd of kids hanging out in front underneath a venue sign proclaiming "Tonight The Byrds with special guest The Association". Tickets were cheap and the joint was far from sold out, so I counted my meager savings and bought a general admission ticket.


V

"The Association" I could live without, but "The Byrds" was another story entirely. This was the California countrified version of the band. The McGuinn, White, Battin, and Parsons band, and they cooked like none other. An awesome show to be sure, which was captured and wound up on the double album "Untitled". I lucked out, the show lasted til after midnight so now I felt like maybe I could return home and face the music.

There was a good crowd from the show walking back up 8th Ave to the Port Authority Terminal so I could count on a safe walk, what I didn't count on was the late night Sunday bus schedule back to the 
'burbs. The last bus I needed to take was long gone, There was only one left that went in the same general vicinity but where I would have to "detrain" was about 5 miles distant from my house, and it was 12:30 A.M. Shit.

VI

The corner of Grove and Mt. Hebron Street is a fucking lonesome place at 1 A.M. Dark, quiet and damned cold. I began to walk southward always on the lookout for police cars who would be sure to question me as to what the fuck a 15 year old kid was doing slinking along so late. There was no wind at all, just bone chilling cold as I hiked down the cracked and uneven sidewalk. "Why don't they ever seem to fix these damn walk" I murmured as I stumbled over yet another grossly uneven section.  Luckily there was not a soul around, not a car, not a noise...just me shivering and walking. 

The park entrance came at about the halfway point home. It would be much easier to cut through the park and I'd be less conspicuous too. I stumbled through the trees until I came to a roadway within the park and suddenly, headlights! Diving off the road and into some nearby bushes I burrowed down into the leaves hoping I wasn't seen. A police car came nearby stopped, feeling the heat from the idling engine I lay as still as I could. A searchlight switched on and it scanned the area passing inched above my head. Satisfied that they must've seen a deer, they drove on.

Now I was scared, I needed to find a place to hunker down to daybreak. It was much too cold to stay outdoors in the park, so i got the hell out of there and hit Broad St. in Bloomfield. A short row of stores, all closed, lined the street. Then I spied it, an all night Laundry - mat! Scampering across the street I entered its ultra bright, ultra empty and ultra warm environs. Who the hell would be doing their laundry at 2:30 A.M. on a Sunday night? Nobody. Walking towards the rear I found an area in a corner behind a machine, crawling into the corner I fell fast asleep.

Epilogue

Monday morning has it's own set of rules and regulations, as depressing as Sunday but somehow not quite as oppressive. I walked home to find my parents half out of their minds. I was one selfish and stupid son of a bitch to do what I did, and I learned a lot from this episode, unfortunately, not quite enough. I was to turn tail and run off a again a year or so later, again, on a Sunday night with the same results but making it a bit farther and longer. Sundays still suck at 60 years of age.






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Squeezing Bourbon out of a barrel board....the "Devil's Cut"

The crowds are gone, the season, over. What is there for next season to draw the dollars through the turnstiles? A-Rod? Hardly. Maybe a big off season signing? Doubtful, besides the day of the huge money free agent is coming to an abrupt close. Youth and the farm system are what a team has always really needed, now more than ever. But the dolts traded all their talent off the farm for the big strapping knuckleheads who produced about as a much a lurching rabid squirrel produces good will among home owners.

So what now? When the "House that Ruth Built" was torn down, they sold it off piece by piece to anyone with a few bucks and perhaps a few steroid shots. They even took dirt from the infield and sold little bags of it to those who would wear it around their necks like some sort of Bronx Mojo. No there is nothing really left. Even bobble heads have run the gambit, they've retired so many numbers and erected so many plaques that monument park is threatening to swallow up the infield and proceed into the cheap seats and over priced hot dog stands.


 So.....what now? Steiner sports, the demented purveyor of all things dealing with Yankee memorabilia have already shredded Jeters dirty socks and sold them off. Maybe they secretly bought up a shitload of Robinson Cano Seattle bobble heads to place on 2nd base on opening day 2015 and then sell them off?


No, they have something much more insidious planned. In conjunction with a secret Chinese laboratory for hair restoration, they are applying the slimy salve to Derek Jeters nether regions in hopes of reaping a plentiful crop of long luxurious pubic hair to then be harvested and woven into watch chains. You laugh.....


Monday, September 8, 2014

"The Last Record Store" Update

A good friend of mine, John Sigona, turned me on to this amazing video. It is a 10 minute clip of the Sunset Boulevard Tower Records circa 1971, at the absolute zenith of the record industry.  I miss those days terribly.

Tower Records 1971

...and an amazing article about a dude who is buying up all the LP's he can get his hands on!

All the LP's in the world

LP's also make great decorative art, as evidenced here in my pocket crap holder made by my pal Heather Taddy:


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Top 10 Books that have never left you:

Meaning that the stories they tell and the books themselves have always been close at hand.

This was an interesting post on FaceBook, here is my list, do you have one?

10 books that have stayed with me:
1. Catcher In The Rye
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 
3. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972
4. Mr. Lincoln's Army
5. Glory Road 
6. A Stillness at Appomattox 
7. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes
9. Grapes of Wrath
10. Wild

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Addendum to "Follow Me Boys"

Friends posted a picture of a battalion of Federal reenactors at Harrisons Landing in VA the scene of the 1st rendition of Taps that was ever heard. The plantation, "Berkeley Hundred" was where the event took place out on the Va. peninsula. Summer on the peninsula is brutal with heat soaring over 100 at times and humidity at 1000%. We were not disappointed, it was freaking hot!

The reenactment was really just a period encampment with camp life, guard duty, various mail, chow, pay calls and drill, drill, drill. It was where a very close friend of mine David "Duke" Culberson (R.I.P.) told me that in all his years reenacting he had never heard anyone gripe in 1st person like a real soldier any better than I!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Follow me boys! Do you want to live forever?!!"

Some of my happiest and most thrilling moments came during the 10+ years that I reenacted the American Civil War. I won't go into the why's of it all, suffice it to say that it's a way for grown men to play SERIOUS "Army" like we did as kids, at least me anyway.

As I grew into the hobby and learned more of the minutiae of the common soldier and soldier life I became more and more determined to have as realistic a kit as possible, right down to the hogs hair toothbrush. I spent untold amounts achieving this and, in the end, I was about as good as one could become.

  My friend, Jason Wickersty, and I at an Antietam reenactment. This tintype was taken  near Boonsboro, MD. by period photographer Robert Szabo.

Through it all I was able to meet some amazing people, form a few lasting relationships, start a business which lasted about 5 years and, to an extent, changed the way the hobby purchased authentic goods. I saw many battlefields and historic sites and was able to partake a small part in the movie "Gettysburg", filmed right near the field itself.


Hamming it up on the set of "Gettysburg"...shot through the neck with a ramrod...always the clown


Pointing across the field to where the Rebels would soon appear when the filming for Pickett's Charge began.

Of course, the above pictures only prove the obvious, that I am a ham and first rate idiot, but a lovable one...at times.

For a brief story on my 1st major reenactment click here: Seeing The Elephant This was the 125th anniversary of the "Overland Campaign" of 1864 featuring the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (Laurel Hill and the "Muleshoe").

The next year saw the 125th anniversary of the final battles on Lee's retreat from Richmond (Saylor's Creek) right before the surrender at Appomattox. This reenactment has stayed with me because of one singular scene. As the brigade (3 to 4,000 full strength) marched off to the first fight, I caught a glimpse of the immense long line and what a real brigade on the march may have looked like. With flags flying and drums and fifes playing I had an amazing "moment". One's time in reenacting is filled with these brief, magic moments...if you are lucky and attend the right events. You cannot force them to happen, they just pop up on you and for that second or two you are outside looking in and in awe.




My unit, the 3rd NJ, firing a volley after crossing Little Saylor's Creek. I was the left general guide for the battalion and am pictured holding the guidon with the small American Flag. My counterpoint, the right guide, and myself, would move out in front of the battalion to help keep the ranks straight as we marched in line of battle. This job, historically, was given to the 2nd Sgt of the right most and left most company of the line...hence, me on the left.

The recent 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, TN also provided some excellent pictures too. Though I had retired before this event and thus, did not attend (I did attend the 130th), I love the pics I have seen of it and will share one here.


Damn, I wish I had gone. These Federal soldiers portrayed Western troops extremely well!



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Two Hats are Better than None

They sit on the table by my computer. My two straw cowboy hats. Both screaming out loud to be on the road, to be far away from the hurt and confusion, the place where I feel like a renter and an enemy....at best.

Both are classic in style and I can get lost in another persona when I place one of them on my head. The problem is: how do I get out of here without hurting the ones I love and which hat should I wear?  Granted, the first question is a bit more important than the other, but they both weigh heavily. I guess it is due to the fact that when I look at the hats (and I pass 'em many times a day) I am reminded, constantly reminded, how much I hurt inside.

Should I spill my guts on these pages for the world to see? I've been hemming and hawing over it for years now. Never really saying, but always hinting. What happens then? I guess fucking what was always going to happen, what was meant to happen, I just haven't had the fortitude to face it. I will draw the curtain open upon the last act of my life's play. That's what it really comes down to, I cannot fathom that this is it, the last act. The old show business idiom "Always leave them wanting more". Does this apply?

Saturday night at my job in the bookstore, an intriguing long haired cashier, who happens to be an old man. Give me a fucking break. Ringing up the sales, trying to sell memberships, making small talk with the unwashed minions. Without fail a well groomed, tanned exec and his trophy wife plunk down their beach books. Speaking in low voices, but just loud enough so that I can hear, they carry on about going to the Hamptons and the parties and the sand and surf and "wasn't it a shame about Robin Williams" and all the other bullshit that dribbles out of their mouths like a chaw of chewing tobacco run amok.

A manicured tanned hand pulls out a wad of bills, fat enough to make even a rich man grimace, casually tossing a couple my way. I make change noticing that his fucking shorts are even ironed for chrissakes. Am I just jealous? Probably. Do I want to roll in the mud "doing" his wife? Yup. Fuck it.

 What was the final of the Mets game? No one knows, no one really gives a shit. It's Saturday night and I will be going home to a woman, who after being together for over 30 years, doesn't really care for me anymore. That's it. Pure and simple.

I do so wish life were like the movies. My wife and I would each have an epiphany and, teary eyed and blubbering, fall into each other and face the world as friends and lovers. That is what is supposed to happen. But it won't and the longer I wait for it to happen, the darker and more painful my world becomes.

So my two hats wait patiently, and as long as my head doesn't grow or shrink they will fit for years to come.