Tag Archives: life

Summer 2009

We lounged almost daily on Santa Monica Beach, preferably on the less touristy north end of the pier. What I remember of that summer is that she would always fall asleep around 3, a little tipsy, with a paperback on her face. I could be wrong, of course, because memory has a way of outstripping reality, but before me is a scene that is somewhat framed and ready to bring to light.

When I begin liking someone I suddenly become concerned and aware of the mushiness effects of my words, she said, also, that club last night was too dark. I bet it was to hide the seediness and the shit on the floors, although I suppose it makes people look more attractive if you can barely see them.

It wasn’t out of the ordinary for her to slide into fragmented speeches without the slightest indication of topic change or complimentary pause–it was as if she needed to blurt it out before it was forgotten forever. She was also very modern, which is to say a mildly intellectualized, curious and alert, handsome/bottle-blonde who embraced quasi-mysticism as a form of rebellion against technological overload and a generally uncaring world.

She was lying on her stomach and clinging to the revolving earth on the day I fell in love, assumably because she got the high score on the Mrs. PacMan machine tucked away in the very back of the costly Mexican restaurant (amongst ogling busboys) at the very back end of the funky-smelling pier–even though I probably shouldn’t have given in so easily. She bought me a newspaper because I love the texture of the archaic things people derive pleasure from but never talk about. The newspaper told me that a baseball team had drafted Grant Green, passing up the modern-day Mickey Mantle whose name pays homage to an oily fish that grizzly bears love to bite the heads off of and is particularly tasty with garlic butter. It certainly didn’t seem odd at the time.

An Ode To The Coliseum

“As a friend once said to me about getting old: what a strange thing to happen to a little boy.”–Paul Auster

The soon-to-be-extinct “piss trough.”

My grandfather took me to my first baseball game at the tender age of 10. There was no literal hand-holding, strategic explanations, or silver-spoon procurement. That just wasn’t his style. If I wanted to figure out the game I had to do it myself. If I wanted some food, well, here’s some money and go fetch it. There was Darwinian Law in effect here, and as far as I know, no child had ever been abducted at a baseball game. The law of averages were on my side, however, as I was left to my own devices, fortuitously discovering a piece to the puzzle while creating soon-to-be-clouded, timeworn memories in that long-ago foreign land known as the 1980’s. 

There was very little small talk and every so often the solitude would be broken by the snap of a Bic lighter touching a Marlboro cigarette. This was a time before the fancy new novelty stadiums with their retractable roof, craft beer, gourmet food, and yuppies making corporate deals in skyboxes. One afternoon a woman was nailed in the head by a foul ball and a group of freedom-loving, scurrying, rat-children (who would hang around the opposing bullpen before games to brutally heckle the starting pitcher while the ushers smiled with approval) gathered around what resembled a murder scene. She was battered and bloodied in the aisle, and it looked as if she had been shot in the forehead. There’s nothing to see here, said her husband. 

When I eventually had to go to the bathroom I was astonished as men were herded in like cattle to a room that smelled like beer, cigarettes, and vomit, all the while whipping out their dongs publicly to pee in what can only be described as a “large rectangular sink.” I would rather die than make a side-glance. Your very life depended on staring at that tiny pin fragment of wall in front of you. You had to embrace yourself in the warmth of your own microcosm for a moment before the vigorous shake, shiver, and hasty exit. Never acknowledge another’s hose/existence while in this slippery and pungent world that seemed to encapsulate the sporting event as a proletarian undertaking.

I’m going to miss the Oakland Mausoleum when it’s gone. It’s exactly what I look for in a baseball stadium. A classic feeling, a potent memory, and a working-class nostalgia. A piss trough in a dirty bathroom, hustlers selling unlicensed knockoffs in the parking lot, a hotdog on a stale bun, overpriced Budweiser, the faint smell of marijuana, broken plastic seats, and a field open to the high blue sky and blazing Northern California sun. 

Just as my grandfather used to watch games.

Random Baseball Stuff

Joker, smoker, midnight toker.

– Every so often a publisher will send me a book in the mail to review, and I usually flip through it quickly and then absentmindedly set it on my bookshelf. If I’m too busy or uninterested, the book makes a home there, snug amongst the “serious literary fiction”, and gathering dust until I just happen upon it while searching for other things, which in turn brings upon pangs of guilt. I’ve waded through a malaise of baseball books–hundreds in fact–and I usually enjoy them more often than not. I must have been in the middle of reading one (I’m usually reading, or grazing multiple books at one time like a maniac) when I tucked in a baseball card moonlighting as a bookmarker. What a pleasant surprise to see the incomparable, all-time greatest thief staring back at me with sun-blasted squinty eyes, the square jaw of Zeus, and an air of don’t fuck with me. Many years had passed, and I recalled that I had last seen this alluring piece of cardboard when I was going through a “my own worst enemy” caveat and floating through a listless existence of fast food, an unfulfilling job, innumerable cocktails, and memories of a failed relationship. 

– The Angel Hernandez fiasco will bring up more hyperbole (baseball fans are incessant complainers) about needing robotic umpires, but the conversation should turn to MLB and its incompetent hiring practices and institutional/generational standards. (amongst other amateurish discrepancies) I’ve watched Japanese baseball (NPB) for many years now, and it’s very rare that they miss a call at the plate. Perhaps they have more astute hiring practices? There’s nothing more frustrating than the American way of doing things–which is to call a pitch a strike that is a foot off the plate–and the announcers calling it a “pitcher’s pitch.” In many cases, you would need an oar to hit one of these things, and frustration just turns to laughter as the strike zone becomes more abstract than a Jackson Pollock painting as the game matures. Welcome to the theatre of mediocrity known as MLB. 

– Franklin Barreto, aka the biggest bust in Oakland A’s trade history and Billy Beane WonderBoy is batting a cool .200 with a .624 OPS for the Asterisks’ AAA team, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. You can call him the most highly touted pinch-runner–and there have been many–in A’s history, just don’t call him Maurice–because he doesn’t speak of the pompatus of love. (yes, I am showing my age here)

P.S. please check out Hugh’s Atlanta Braves-based blog Cheap Hill 44 if you get a chance!

Who Needs a Beer?

Love unrequited

What’s a guy gonna do? I went with my normal routine of a quick-paced afternoon walk before stopping at the local rec. center to shoot some hoops. (My follow-through is a bit rusty, but coming along nicely) I knew I only had about 30 minutes to goof around before proceeding to walk the 6 blocks home. Today was Opening Day, and as Jerry Seinfeld so astutely said, “You’re not rooting for players, you’re rooting for laundry.” And in the end–I’m not convinced that this is a baseball team rather than a Ponzi scheme. The “suits” have seemingly crystallized everything I despise about hyper-capitalism and formulated a shabby squad that epitomizes unchecked greed before the inevitable crash. Of course, the fanbase gives a collective yawn, indicating that they’ve been through this routine before.

So, what the hell…let’s put my slavish devotion to the test. You know, sometimes disaster porn can be fun. Is your temperature rising too? Well, buddy–pop a few Xanax, have a drink, and let’s get angry!

 I couldn’t look away. I had to indulge and examine how this bunch of ragtag misfits (I am not going to say lovable quite yet) were going to fare against a “pretender” like the Phillies. If I have to be pragmatic with myself, I felt like it was going to take a 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey-like effort to win one of the games in this series–no doubt the only historical reminder of most of these guys’ benign, hardball careers will be represented on a single baseball card that no collector will bother to safeguard in one of those plastic pages, inevitably ending up battered and pissed on by vagrants in a random 7-11 parking lot. Bush leaguers perpetually in flux. Alas! The Phillies come out of the gate with a 4- run lead which felt insurmountable, even in this cheesesteak bloated, Santa-Claus-hating, bandbox.

The human equivalent of a facepalm, Elvis Andrus attempts to pull everything, and I usually just scratch 6-3 on my scorecard before the facade is over. When he finally grounds out to the opposite field, (4-3) A’s fans rejoice. This front office should have known something was amiss when the Rangers implored, “PLEASE take him off our hands….we’ll even pay half his salary!” The second half of that sentence predictably made owner John Fisher’s nipples rock hard as he undoubtedly daydreams about 100-foot yachts and “ladyboys” in stale-sheet-smelling Thai bedrooms amongst other slimy antisocial transgressions only the insanely wealthy seem to enjoy. (Did someone say modern art tax-write-off?)

It’s all about the little things, right? Who am I kidding? There just isn’t anything to be optimistic about unless you’re the owner’s accountant or a naive homer. The only saving grace/mental resolve is knowing that this team (or the league for that matter) isn’t going to pry one filthy nickel from my grubby hands this year or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Are you bored yet? My apologies for being one of those fussy saps that love to shoehorn their unparalleled virtue into any scenario–it appears that this affliction was satisfied (once again, as this primal scream seems to exemplify) by howling into the abstract abyss known as the internet, composing even more agonizing and just plain stupid first-world problems in these supposed apocalyptic times. Sigh…who needs a beer?

Whiskey and Baseball

Lucian-Hamilton Field

Summer is slowly creeping into the room, and I’m starting to wear tank tops and abandoning a blanket at night. I ran out of coffee and now I’m getting a headache. The cats are moving a little more slowly, seemingly without agenda, and sleeping more often as the sound of spring training baseball fills the afternoon air. The announcers are speaking to no one as I go about my daily tasks, and when I finally watch for a while they feign excitement for a team that exists for no other reason than for its owner to extort money from the fans, the league, and perhaps even the city they play in. I love this team but feel pandered to as they try to sell me a bowl of shit and tell me it’s chocolate ice cream with sprinkles on top. (What…no cherry?) There’s a sucker born every minute, and I suppose I’m the jive-ass MF’er P.T. Barnum was referring to when he uttered those words that are soundly more American than apple pie and a lobotomy–thrust into a blender that would be deemed irrelevant in mere minutes and dumped in a landfill. 

I went for an afternoon walk and decided to stop by the modest, pleasantly aromatic (supposedly haunted) Catholic university near my home to watch a bit of baseball. The St. Edward’s Hilltoppers are a division 2 team, with a well-kept playing surface, a view of downtown Austin in RF, and a large awe-inspiring, red-topped, Gothic castle–simply called “Main Building” and built in 1888–that can be seen for miles around slightly left of the diamond.

There was purity on the field that day; an anachronistic system rooted in the previous century that had been missing as players chirped back and forth throughout. Talk of the soil. Distant were the absurd contracts, overpriced merchandise, and owners who had graduated to my drop-dead list, and I was re-learning that I didn’t need every moment to be a psychological revelation instead of understanding that simply dwelling leisurely in time is a luxury.

Distant was the soulless institution of MLB as I took nips of whiskey from a flask that I had bought from a man in what can only be described as “barely a gas station” in some stink-pit outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was a turquoise, sort of abstract eagle on the front of that magical flask, and I’m not sure if it was the booze, the heatstroke, or the hoodoo placed upon the pewter, but I sure as hell felt as free as that screwball eagle at that very moment.

Author Almost Swallowed by the Pacific on a Perfectly “Sonny” Day

Pirates Cove, Malibu

I remember that day well. I had almost drown while surfing in the hidden cove. The waves took me under and I was thrashing around at the bottom and had no idea which way was up and which way was down. It didn’t matter, as I was being pummeled mercilessly and told myself not to panic or I’d start sucking in water.  I suppose there are worse ways to die, but while it’s happening you are never really ready to concede no matter the aesthetic. It’s like a surprise birthday party in all the wrong ways. 

There is nothing like the sensory pleasure of falling off a surfboard into the cold Southern California ocean as you tumble under the surface for what seems like an eternity and surface gasping for air. I was reborn as I violently broke the surface–blind luck and another bullet dodged in a moment of equal measure grandeur and folly. I dragged myself across the caramel-hued sand, chest heaving heavily and astonished to still be in one piece as the sky was making that brief transformation that comes every evening at twilight.

“Whats new, pussycat?” I asked, still gasping for air.

My girlfriend had brought the New York Times, a large umbrella, and a few adult beverages. She looked amazing in her bikini, and I was jealous of the sun glistening off her light-brown cocoa skin like a forbidden sanctum while my own pasty coating was sucking up skin cancer like a flophouse on future consignment. My lust was transparent. We were hanging out mere feet away from where Charlton Heston filmed the iconic scene with the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes. It was well known to locals, but you had to climb a small stack of sharp, craggy boulders to enter the VIP room. 

“Did you know that most “friendships” are only reciprocal 53 percent of the time?” said the girl as she emerged from stray thoughts and tugged at her top revealing quite more than a sliver of sun-kissed cleavage.

I sat for a minute quietly thinking about my own life and the relationships that had come and gone–always cutting deceptively dark and deep. I supposed that I had never seen any sort of friendship as “forever” because of my own abandonment by my father. Because of this thought, and the anxiety of the inevitable, perhaps I never put the time or the effort into friendships that I should have. I simply exhausted all avenues and then quietly moved on with little care. Shadows of the past. Funny how that happens–one minute you’re dying, and the next…disastrous self-scrutiny

“Looks like your favorite player was traded,” she said.

“Sonny Gray!?”

 “Those damn dirty apes,”  I thought. They went and did the inevitable –so how could I be shocked or angry? “They’ll love him in New York for about, oh, 15 minutes.” (Gray was 15-16 over the lower part of 2 seasons before being exiled to Cincinnati for a package of hot dog buns)

Echoes of the past rumble through my head as I gazed upon the murderous waves crashing in deadly syncopation. I loved to tempt the laws of probability as a reaffirmation of existence. I dragged the surfboard slowly to the water and the previous thoughts disappeared as suddenly as they came. I didn’t like revisiting the past– and the way the waves were looking today, perhaps I didn’t have a future either.

2 Dudes Talk About Baseball Movies

 Gary Trujillo: I watched that Field Of Dreams game, and it was really cool from an aesthetic standpoint… and what an ending! I’m not a big fan of the movie though, it’s way too cheesy for my tastes. My favorite baseball movie would have to be Bull Durham because the writing is smart, funny, romantic, sexy and raunchy. And Susan Sarandon! Meow. 

I met BD writer Ron Shelton at the Burbank Library in 2010 and he was a cool guy. Jim Bouton (RIP) was there that day too as was Greg Goossen (RIP)

Brian Kingman: Yes! Bull Durman is more realistic and my favorite too. When I watched the movie I was interested to see who wrote it because it combined a high level of understanding of what it was like to play the game professionally, as well as an awesome job of capturing the personal interaction between teammates (Mostly Costner & Robbins) as well as what it is like to be a naive rookie or a seasoned pro. My favorite scene is when Costner tells the hitter what’s coming and he hits the home run off the bull. It so accurately depicted the feeling and interaction between an experienced catcher and rookie pitcher who thinks he is invincible. 

I think almost every young pitcher has been in that situation. I remember the first time I faced Reggie Jackson, it was 0-2, no one on base and I shook off a curveball twice! because I WANTED TO ANNOUNCE MY PRESENCE WITH AUTHORITY.…..with a fastball of course. Well, that ball ended up 30 rows deep in the right-field stands. If the Durham bull had been there it might have knocked its head off!  Jim Essian, my catcher came out to the mound with a smile that said, I told you so  and said, “Now there’s something to remember.”

Anyway, Ron Shelton should be in Baseball’s HOF for writing (and directing) that movie! 

Field Of Dreams is different. Less realistic and requires the suspension of disbelief. It would be awesome if old-time players could emerge from a cornfield! Not sure how many would be available or where it might happen. Maybe in a parallel universe there is a schedule of old-timers games for everyone that ever played. Like (the novel) The Wax Pack you could catch up with your favorite players. Unlike Wax Pack it wouldn’t matter if they were still living …well at least not in the here and now. 

With everyone theoretically available, my list would be very long. I would like, of course, to meet Dolf Luque. August 24th was the 99th anniversary of his 20th loss – the last pitcher before me to lose 20 for a winning team. Jack Nabors, who suffered through a 1-20 season and of course Pud Galvin. I’d want to get Babe Ruth’s opinion on today’s homerun glut, but more importantly the highlights of his nightlife. I’d ask Rube Wadell why he chased fire trucks, and I would ask Casey Stengel to tell me all he knows about Billy Martin. I’d like to meet Anthony Young to hear his frustrations of losing 27 consecutive decisions. I would hope that the power of walking through the corn isn’t limited to just the diamond. I want to meet these guys in a bar so we can sit down and talk for hours. I know Babe would feel right at home. I also know that Luque and Stengel don’t like each other, and as the night wears on a plastered Billly Martin should appear to make things even more interesting.

Japanese Baseball, Guns and Meathooks

“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.”
― Werner Herzog

I’m walking down the street on a main boulevard near a donut shop with two unknown, genderless children. (?) I have been here before, in my waking life. It is the type of place where, if you’re not wearing absolute rags they think you have money and are a half-wit who can be taken advantage of. Suddenly, a large, heavily tattooed man grabs my arm as I pass. I swing around to confront the man when I find a gun that looks comically small in his massive, sweaty meathooks pointed directly at my face. I panic, and seemingly conscious that this is a dream, I bail out and am abruptly sucked away from this destitute reality and awaken on my bed in a darkened room.

There is a moment of pause and reflection before I stare at the time–4:30–and I’ll probably toss and turn for a few hours before slumbering again. My phone tells me that the Yomiuri Giants are playing the Chunichi Dragons, and it’s 1-0 in the 4th. I turn it on. These teams were playing baseball on the other side of the globe and battling for playoff position–a classic Japanese version of the Dodgers/Giants rivalry with both teams wearing the respective colors of the teams from the Golden State. Who was that tattooed man, and what does he represent? And the children? Too tired, and not in the mood for Freudian consideration, I watch for a few innings–the pace and play comforting me before finally awarded repose once again.

Trade Deadline and Crappy Baseball Magazines

Creative carte blanche.

Here is a cover I “designed” for a little-known and now-defunct baseball magazine (this was around the time magazines were on the cusp of dying, but were still relevant to the average Luddite, tactile enthusiast, or collector of things) that never ran. The editors, or powers that be, said it was too abstract or artsy, but I didn’t care as they had already bestowed the 200 clams for the idea–no questions asked. In the end, I presumably decided that this working relationship probably wouldn’t progress my ideas or disciplines as a creator and in the process did some serious dampening on my ideas of the publishing world.

I met the founder/owner/head honcho for dinner one night in a Chinese restaurant, and all the other writers/designers/shit workers wore a suit jacket or tie of which I was obviously exempt. One of the wives asked the server if the rice was “the type with plastic in it.” I was dumbfounded until she explained to me that she had read somewhere that the Chinese put plastic in their rice. I was then assured that my meal would be less than hygienic once the cooks were informed of this deranged idea.  

There is something about an ostentatious dinner party that is equivalent to watching the entire life cycle of a drowning house fly. This excursion was an example of wealth without inhibition, leading to projects done on a whim because someone had money to burn, and because of their ineptitude and lack of knowledge of the (dying) industry, their layman cracks were starting to show major gaps between ideal and actuality.

Insider jargon was being thrown around fast and furious, more or less centered around the male, mass media, basic-bitch sphere of cologne, beer, and cars–and the lines between fantasy and reality were laughably blurred. I decided in an instant to make the shittiest cover I could possibly throw together just to see if it would, by some miracle, get green-lighted. The “project” was a simple cut and paste that was done hastily in about a minute on my laptop while folding laundry…not bad work for a couple of Benjamin Franklins on a sleepy Saturday.

***

Dude’s got his hard nipples game on lock.

The A’s finally acquired some bullpen help in the form of Andrew Chafin, and the green and gold zealots were predictably overjoyed. Here are some of the complaints that A’s fans have relished this season: bullpen, bullpen, bullpen, Chapman can’t hit, bullpen, bullpen, Andrus can’t hit, bullpen, bullpen, John Fisher is the human equivalent of a festering boil, bullpen, bullpen, bullpen. 

Chafin has the look that A’s fans embrace–that of the badass dad with a handlebar mustache and a beer belly that sometimes parties with his Hells Angels friends on the weekends. He conjures up visual memories of a favorite of this blog–Rod Beck, (RIP Shooter) and will hopefully bring a left-handed dominance that the Oakland ball club has desperately needed. This guy is like bringing water to someone who has been crawling around, lips cracked and sun-baked in the desert. Remember that scene with Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Blondie can finally drink. Not to be greedy, but I would be ecstatic if we could also acquire a stick before the deadline, because this offense smells worse than diarrhea on a hot tin roof and doesn’t even remotely resemble a team of contention.

Observations and stuff

Rickey’s stance?

Recently, a friend and I were walking to the corner store on a bright-sunny-day-beer-trip, lazily immersing ourselves in conversation about Glenn Danzig‘s new album of Elvis covers. My opinion was that I found the album to be trite, self-serious with no irony, and it ultimately garnered a shrug and a yawn; but even more hilarious and interesting was the almost universal frothing at the mouth by the gate-keeping reviewers who saw it as rock and roll anathema and a retrograde head-scratcher. Besides, couldn’t I just listen to Elvis himself? Is there any reason why I shouldn’t? Danzig, in all his glorious, visual hilariousness could never surpass a fat Elvis doing a rhinestone studded, scuzzy Las Vegas, word-slurring, pill popping rendition of “In the Ghetto.” There is, alas, only one “King,” and Mr. Danzig is just the former lead singer of a band whose t-shirts have been relegated to the scrapheap of clueless millennial teenage rebellion. This album only exists to create more landfill.

We passed the “Rickey Henderson” statue that I noticed that someone had (lovingly?) bestowed a mask, no doubt an attempt at humor or perhaps a micro-aggressive reminder to Trump fans (and every cro-magnon attempting to adopt the modern human sleeve without internal logic) that surely no amount of patriotism or amendments can stop a virus or even death. These are surreal and almost hilarious times and I couldn’t help but suppressing a snicker as I put on my own mask before entering the store, per new regulation, to an absurdity that can only be seen as the “new normal.” I seemingly can only wonder and perhaps dream of a world without The ‘Rona and maybe even Glenn Danzig for good measure since wondering and dreaming seems to be the only pastime that makes sense these days besides drinking and hand washing.