Friday, July 4, 2014

Forward to Brook Zelcer's Book: The Little Book of Yankee Evil

"He Who Troubleth His House Shall Inherit the Wind" Proverbs 11:29

The "House that Ruth built" is gone, replaced by a sand lot and parking spaces. The "House that Steinbrenner built" is now next door to that sandlot and is, indeed, inheriting a vile smelling wind.

In the summer of 1962 I sat with my father in the Polo Grounds watching the new national League franchise New York Metropolitans create their own special brand of stink. No one mentioned or commented that just across the Harlem River sat the aforementioned edifice of the powerhouse Yankees, however, it was nigh impossible to not catch a whiff  of some unexplained toxic funk that permeated the field and stands when the wind shifted from the east. Some time around the middle of the game a lurking, jerking small animal crept in from the outfield, vomiting and howling like a banshee. A rabid weasel had been deposited on the field and it was not only vomiting but molting as well. There was a note attached to it's underside on Yankee stationary which read: "Welcome to New York, scumbags".

The bar was in the basement of a building, a local watering hole for the long haired elite of Lawrence, Kansas. The place was jammed and as I walked in I was engulfed in a blue haze of marijuana smoke. A paper bowl was shoved into my midriff  and I was pushed towards the bar where sat  a multitude of ripe watermelons all injected with  liberal doses of grain alcohol.  I sliced off a huge hunk with the buck knife that had been stabbed into the bar. "This blade being here might be trouble with this dangerous bunch" I thought. I turned to watch the TV that everyone was transfixed to.

The Royals were playing the Yankees for the umpteenth time for the American league pennant, and had lost out the previous years. This year seemed to be different and the buzzing and growing fervor of the crowd meant that good things were happening. The Royals won that night, clinching the American League Pennant. Pandemonium reigned as the Royals celebrated as if they had won the World Series (this would prove to be their swansong as they fell easily to the Phillies in the series). In the bar it was a drunken rampage, fueled with grain alcohol, cheap beer and home grown 2nd generation primo pot. The crowd spilled onto the street screaming deliriously and waving their arms like lunatics just escaped from the asylum. I sat alone watching the highlights. I shall never forget my glee in seeing George Steinbrenner throw up his hands in disgust as he sat in his private box, then he stalked off like a spoiled child. His chief thug, Billy martin, was wondering, I'm sure, if he would be fired yet again for not kissing the boss's ring. It was better than winning the game, the air shifted from the east and was fresh and sweet.

The "Little Book of Yankee Evil" may be just that, little, but it is huge with it's meticulous research and thought provoking prose. The anecdotes are true and the eye opening tales of evil they discuss might make you give up on baseball altogether and join the local dart throwing team. Not since the infamous Gangs of New York and the Five Points has this city known such treachery, such arrogance, and ,yes, such evil. A motley collection of ward wheeling hacks and molesters that will invade your sleep each night.

Fear not, there are enough skeletons in all of baseball so to make any organization not feel left out. Bon Appetit.




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The last Record Store

Like "Fort Apache The Bronx" the settlers have their wagons in a circle. We can see the dust rising on the horizon and what's coming ain't Injuns. It is the corporate bean counters getting ready to ax the last record store here in the super fertile retail land that is routes 4 & 17 in Bergen County, NJ

Most of my adult life I have worked in the music industry, starting as a part time employee on the selling floor and advancing through the ranks to management and supervision., ending with the job of "Buyer" when the bottom finally fell out.

The recession/depression mangled ALL of retail, but the music industry was particularly hard hit. Not only were sales cut into by the growing and soon to be huge Amazon, but what had started as a file sharing site by some college kids had then gone "viral" and just about anything one wanted could be downloaded illegally. As each dollar spent by a consumer for entertainment got cut up more and more the writing was on the wall became clear as crystal. Not in plain white chalk either, but in big, bold strokes of gore. Yes, the high and mighty executives at Sony had now become hooded Voodoo priests and were sacrificing  whatever they could find to appease the lustful and vengeful Gods who no doubt had it in for them. Paranoia was rampant and dogs started to mysteriously disappear off the streets of Manhattan.

During it's heyday in the retail rich region of the "miracle mile" there were no less than 11 or 12 full blown record stores and record departments. The competition was fierce, the selection, immense. The industry, for the last time, had pulled the retail wool over the unsuspecting public's collective eyes.  They held the poor, work-a-day-world schnook in high contempt when they convinced him, one last time, to buy his entire music collection all over again in the new CD format. This was the last great frontier in pre-recorded music...we promise you will never need anything else...what a crock.



I lost my gig in the fall of 2003 and scrambled for one of the few remaining openings that still existed in the music business. The only problem was that the line ahead of me stretched from New York City to the environs of Albany. Within that line, along with all the "soldiers" of the industry resided more than enough CEO's, VP's and Grand Poobah's to fill a dozen board rooms. Somewhere in the distance, a single church bell tolled.

My life from 2003 through to the present is like a sojourn through the annals of the Iliad & Odyssey complete with Sirens, Cyclops monsters, and Giants. All the while I kept running into casualties of the industry. "Hey, man, How's it going!?"  I'd shout enthusiastically as I spied and old colleague. The answer was always the same...broke, out of work, on the dole, selling aluminum siding, the whole bit. Fucking depressing. It got so I avoided these guys when I saw them coming. It was a dance of the dead and my card was already full, thank you.

...and then, I finally landed here.


Here, the last record department/store left. Back to exactly where I started....on the floor as a part timer. This lovely industry had sure as hell given me a ride, my money's worth some might say...from minimum up to six figures and back to minimum...and it only took 30 years. The big wigs had partied and pissed the money and the industry away and had taken the last cattle car to the coast, some to write their best selling memoirs, leaving me and those like me to pick up the pieces of this smoldering shit pile, put on a brave face and sink slowly with the ship.

Now, once again, the rumor mill is in overdrive. This department will be phased out. It will be replaced with educational toys, you have, tops, 2 years left.  What's left for me after the last record store sinks?



                                                                      or.........



The cloud on the horizon is closing in. I can now just barely make out swirling "Dust Devil's", thousand of 'em approaching, stumbling along like drunken sailors on shore leave. "Shit, We're in for it now" I think as I watch with bated breath.  Tons of dust and tumbleweeds will be dumped upon us, then smoothed over by the incessant wind....no one will ever know that we even existed.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Brown Eyed Women

She came sailing out of left field, like the perfect throw from an outfielder to catch a runner at home plate...yes, a perfect throw. I cannot really remember anyone quite like her, before or since, if you want to know the truth. She was always so warm, her hands soft and soothing, her brown eyes inviting and loving.

When was the first time I held her close? It wasn't too damn long after I had met her. She was the epitome of the beauty found in the central plains, and if I travel to the ends of the earth I shall never find another like her. Less then a year, I believe, was the amount of time I was lucky enough to love her, but that was time enough to burn a lifetime of longing into my heart......

 My friend had fixed us up as he was dating her room mate. I don't believe it was meant to be any big deal, hell, it was just a college town and guys and girls got together all the time. Nonetheless, I took my time getting ready as I was hoping for the best and anticipating the worst...I had been burned before by blind dates.

Music, a most important part of my persona, was flailing out of the speakers as I got dressed. I must confess, many times I received inspiration from album covers. The covers that have good looking long haired rockers posing in a relaxed, laid back manner. Mannerisms, dress, attitude...all those things I took from the covers...they were the Sears and Roebuck catalogs of my life.


I sat in the bar with my friend waiting for the girls, nervously fingering my glass of beer and smoking a cigarette. I had never met either before so when they approached I was not sure who was who. My friend went to his girl and gave her a peck on the cheek...that left you know who.

She sat down across from me. I could not take my eyes off her hair or her beautiful brown eyes. A very important girl in my life once told me to always love women with deep brown eyes. This thought jumped to front of my temporal lobe and I felt like a newly minted lobotomy patient. In a word I was dumb founded. 

Through the fog I heard conversation, it sounded like Mandarin Chinese. I reached in deep and pulled myself back to the surface. Something was being discussed about football or basketball or school or some such bullshit...someone asked me a question...was it her? Was she speaking to me? I mustered up my energy and coughed , I think. What a dope! I was blowing it! Wake up, stupid!

She didn't seem to mind, she seemed to like me anyway despite the spittle flowing out the side of my mouth and the glazed over eyes of a serial rapist. My God, what a beauty. I looked down at the table and was amazed at how delicate, how beautiful, how unpretentious her hands were. I mean, girls at that age oft times don't know when to stop applying stuff and have all manner of adornment on their hands. Her's were unassuming, plain yet exquisite. 

We all stood to leave, I helped her on with her coat. I looked down and I saw "it". Her jeans encased it like it was the rarest of gems. Smooth, pert, round, taut...I had to have her, to make her mine forever, to somehow convince her that her future lay with a long haired drifter.

I fooled her for about a year, but then she took hold of her senses and went back to what she was supposed to be doing with her life, hurt but never angry, I slowly got over her. What is the saying? Forgive but never forget? Twas Ever Thus.

  


Friday, January 24, 2014

Gonna Run a Rainbow Ragged

Late Summer and early Fall  were a special time for me in the late 60's. First of all, just about all of my early romances all began and ended in the Fall and this trend continued well on throughout my life. Secondly, there is something so comfortable and soothing about the late afternoon sunshine at that time of year...golden, warm and just a hint of cool breeze mixed with the coloring of the leaves. Thirdly, the sounds of rakes and the smell of burning leaves all up and down the block.

Back before leaf blowers, everyone raked and on a late Saturday afternoon as I sat in my 3rd floor attic room with my window open I could hear the rakes scratching away upon the driveways of the block. Everyone burned their leaves back then and the air was a pall of leaf smoke with its peculiar, one of a kind smell. Turn the corner onto any street late on a weekend Fall afternoon and the smell would whack your face and burn your lungs, and the smell lingers to this day.


One of the true joys of being a kid was burning leaves. The pyromaniac in all of us came to the forefront as we stood and watched the flames growing higher,engulfing more and more leaves. When the wind would switch one would become covered in a thick, white, acrid smoke....wonderful. I would buy a Remco model with my allowance money and build it, only to have it destroyed by the raging fire on the weekend. My favorite were the monsters: Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I would position them coming out of their leaf lair and then set the huge pile of leaves ablaze and slowly watch them melt and become more and more disfigured. The simple joys of a misspent youth.

Along with the smells and sounds of a late Fall day came another ritual that was known to all the kids on my surrounding blocks. The winds of war were upon us.

The battle lines were drawn. The kids on our two blocks were about to face off n deadly combat. The weapon of choice? Big, fat ripe acorns, which fell by the ton in those days. Like everything else that seems different in childhood, there seemed to be scads more acorns than there are today. Walking down the gutter of any street one could fill a shopping bag with big, plump, pointy ended acorns complete with their caps.

The point at the end, when thrown just right, created a sting not to be believed. All of us spent the morning gathering our ammunition and then setting the bags along the front lines, readying for the attack. This would be the final battle of the campaign season. Sporadic fighting had been going on all Fall, but today would decide the superiority of the two blocks.

The battle lines stretched the entire length of the block....behind houses and garages and fences. Either flank was lightly patrolled, the big fight would come at the center, behind my friends house. A stockade fence stood between the lines. On the enemy's side was a wide open back yard, their only approach was to cross this open space hoping to make the fence before too many were injured. On our side of the fence was a thick rhododendron forest, in some places more than 10 feet high, seemingly impenetrable.  The only weak spot was a large hole in the stockade fence which their "sappers" had destroyed the night before and now the hole yawned, waiting to be breached.

The long shadows of the afternoon were beginning to take shape. Our scouts reported no movement, the flanks, still secure. It had to come today, tomorrow was Sunday and the armies would be depleted due to kids having to go to church etc..it had to be today and soon. Suddenly one of the scouts reported movement. Then all hell broke loose, a couple of dozen kids with bags of acorns made for the hole in the fence, their numbers far superior to ours. It was obvious they had received vital reinforcements from the next block over. Our only chance was to pummel them at the bottleneck jam in the fence and to hold until our flanks came in to bolster our numbers.

Our advance pickets stood to their deadly task and took effective aim and blazed away at all the kids they could single out, but were soon over run, the tide of kid-dom was irresistible. Then, they stopped. A hush lay over the field of battle. Then, over the top of the stockade came bag after shopping bag of dirt....fine, powdery dirt. When it hit the ground it flew into the air and created a dense dust fog. Through the hole in the fence the enemy poured piercing our first line of entrenchments within the jungle, the choking dust was too much to bear. We fell back to the yard and our last ditch line of over turned lawn chairs, wagons and anything else we had been able to lay our hands on. The day hung in the balance as they came screeching out of the jungle at us. Gasping for breath, they were affected same as us and in the slight lull we brought our full might to bear. Down they went in piles as the pointy missiles of doom found their mark on many a foes forehead. They scrambled back, tried to regroup, but it was too late, the attack had been broken and they streamed back through the fence and to their respective homes.

In the sudden quiet we could hear rakes on pavement and smell the burning of leaves. We smiled at one another, satisfied with another campaign season won. John's mother called for him, it was time for supper. We parted and made our way homeward the warm afternoon sun now starting to disappear behind the trees. Later in my life acorn battles would be replaced by battles of a different sort....battles of the heart.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hi! I'm Still Dead!

Sometimes I go on these massively long absences, I just get writers block or i just don't feel like screwing around with the blog. I guess it is high time I came back and laid a big turd on these pages.

I have a ton of catching up to do...first off, I never finished my top 100 albums, just left it hanging so I will get back on that post haste. Secondly, yet another base ball season is winding away and I have not made the least bit of effort to attend a game...of any sort. I seriously doubt I'll go to Citi this year, unless it's to catch Matt Harvey pitch.

The above is all frivolous chatter, feeling better on better days. Right now I am so completely immersed in depression I feel like my hand is grasping a sand rope. Numbness, no feeling at all except a giant pit in my stomach. The cause of all this cannot be revealed just yet, it's too personal and just too early to really get into it, if you want to know the truth.

What really kills me is that I spent years upon years on the road and was never above, selling my stuff, packing up and just hitting the highway. It all seems like a foggy memory it was so long ago and yet clear enough to still cling to the freedom and memory so that I can remind myself that I was, indeed, King of the World at one point in my life.

Now, because of my age and not so fantastic health I am stuck, my life savings depleted and very little energy to go even though I want to. I do not think I would survive very long out there at this point. But then again, that might be a good thing too. Just find a quiet place under a tree and let the world pass by. I would muster what strength I have left and face the world as a man with no regrets, no personal history and nothing to do but to travel the world with my eyes wide open and looking at the wonder.


Maybe I might even finally get myself totally familiar with my guitar, at long last and find my wind once again to toot my harmonica, maybe.  Crossroads, anyone?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Harmonica Joe's Back Porch Ad




Partying on the porch and inside, Bergen County's 1st and only Jook Joint! 9pm til 12 EDT on Sunday nights! http://tunein.com/radio/Dream-Stream-Radio-s202280/