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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fear and a Whiff of Loathing at Citi Field

The call came late Saturday night, a jangled, nervous voice on the other end, almost apologetically.
"Joe?"
I recognized the voice and my heart sank, I knew it meant work and I was at low point. Yea, the voice belonged to Charlie Vandersmoot of the Bergen Record newspaper, I had done some freelance writing for him before and I knew what a treacherous, underhanded bastard he was.

"What's up?" I scowled at the thought of what was coming next.

"Joe, it's like summer and a lot of the staff is off"

"I know it's summer you heartless fuck, so what?"

"I need you, big time. It's the biggest sports story in 9 years as far as the Mets go, you know what I'm talking about, right?"

Of course I knew what he was talking about, I had been on an emotional roller coaster for the better part of a week watching my beloved hapless team go from a high to an amazing low, then lower still to a spectacular week end finish. It had affected me in a most profound and really funky way. When Charlie called I had actually thought it might be the Governor threatening to send the National Guard to smoke me out of my house. You see, I had barricaded my self in, was drinking heavily and had even took a swipe at the mailman with a buck knife when he tried to drop off a certified letter. The letter now lay upon the driveway, right where he had dropped it as he careened off the side of my car running for dear life from my wild lunges. I believe I might have screamed something about Dick Cheney and how the fat fuck was gonna pay for his Haliburton bullshit in Iraq. Drinking cheap Jim Beam bourbon does that shit to me.

"Listen, Charlie, whatever it is you fucking want, make it quick, they're surrounding the house and I'm gonna have to pull a Butch Cassidy and shoot my way outta here"

"What? Joe, try and pull it together and for God's sake put down the Jim Beam". He knew me too well. "You gotta get out to Citi Field for tomorrow nights game and cover it, the biggest game in recent memory, the whole city is buzzing, I'll send a car for you."

"Are you fucking crazy? I can't trust anyone, especially some idiot in a stretch limo who probably wants to collect the reward money I have on my head. The Post Office probably has my fucking mug shot on the wall! Tell you what, leave a car under my name at the Exxon on the corner of Plaza and FairLawn Ave., they have rentals, make sure it's tank-like and fill it with high octane jet fuel and a case of, better make that two cases of Bohemia beer, none of that cheap shit you try and pass off on me"

The other end of the line went silent.

"Charlie! Charlie!! Don't fuck this up! I smell Pulitzer prize!"

"The car'll be there, game starts at 8PM, it's on national TV and for God's sake pull it together!"

He hung up, I envisioned him, like a 60's schoolkid practicing for an atomic blast, crawling under his desk and tucking his head between his legs. It was time to get moving.

"Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that's where I'll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me" - Tiny Tim

I peeked through a crack in the door, the late morning sun was shining brightly and it stung my eyes. The coast seemed clear and I slowly, quietly tiptoed through backyards, over fences, behind garages, making my way to the Exxon station. I had a doctors grip with me containing the essentials: ether, a quart of Jim Beam, a pile of hashish brownies, a small zip lock bag filled to bursting with xanex and other assorted opiates, a leather bound journal, a bundle of #2 pencils and a razor sharp buck knife for sharpening of said pencils. I couldn't help but think of the great artist Ralph Steadman and his rendition of Hunter Thompson sneaking out of Vegas, tripping on strong acid.

I crept along as quietly as possible not knowing when some evil bastard might spot me and raise the alarm. The morning was quiet and I made it to the station uneventfully.  I slithered through the door of the rental car area of the gas station, my eyes darting wildly, sweat pouring off of me like a fat man playing softball.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Spectacular Gift

One should never discount the wealth that can be found inside the cover of a really excellent bathroom reader. Sure, magazines have their place, but quickly become dated. There's been a landslide of books published dedicated to read whilst doing ones "business" , these, however, are generally of poor quality and I for one quickly get bored with their inane bullshit. The perfect reader must be:
1) Soft Cover
2) Covers a subject you have an intense interest in
3) No long, drawn out stories
4) Stories can be read again and again, gleaning new information or revealing something you have not thought of the last time you read it

and finally:

5) The author has to know how to actually write and turns a great sentence.

Such a book recently fell into my hands at an unexpected time and from an unexpected source.

A dear, old friend of mine, whom I had not seen in years came back into my life recently. I forgot how much I admired his skills as a writer, a storyteller and just over all great friend. I am so much richer for having once again connecting with him. He was actually an usher at my wedding.

We are huge baseball and hockey fans, both loving the same teams and the overall sport they contend in. We can spend hours discussing, yelling and laughing about our two lovable teams and the dynamics of each sport. Recently he dropped by to watch a ballgame and handed me a book, not realizing it was my birthday, which made the gift all the more treasured. It was a rare, used book. It could not be purchased new and he had to scour the dusty, dank recesses of the internet to find it. To wit:


This book is a true diamond in the rough! A baseball card lovers Holy Bible of crazy, unknown players who plagued the game in the 50's and early mid 60's. Cards from my time, when I feverishly bought a pack at a time for $.05 each. The memories are overflowing and satisfying and the writing mixes the factual with dry wit of the authors poison pen. 



Bill "giant chaw in the cheek" Tuttle, Roger "Hapless NY Met" Craig. Ryne "Coke Bottle Glasses" Duren are just a small sample of the hours upon hours of great stories to be discovered and re lived in this book. Not only that, but one of the most important requirements for a first rate bathroom read is:

6) One's "Business" is performed smoothly and effortlessly  when this book is in your hands!

Vive la Brooke!

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!