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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 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 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.

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 late 70's 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.

Order your copy here: Little Book of Yankee Evil  This is the original version, the update with my forward will be published in the future and I will alert you when that happens.

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?


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 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 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.