Tag Archives: life

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. I dragged myself across the 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 scantily clad girl. 

I sat for a minute quietly thinking about my own life and the relationships that had come and gone. 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. 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.

note: if you want to watch free baseball, simply click on Alfred E. Neuman’s face in the upper right hand corner.

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 being awarded repose once again.

Trade Deadline and Crappy Baseball Magazines

2 Bennys please.

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. 

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. 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 then and there 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.

 

Canseco and Cap’n Crunch

I was standing in the queue at the local health food store with my basket full of over-priced, organic, local, vegan, cage-free crap when suddenly I was struck by a haze of fog known as boredom reminiscing. This phenomenon, where synapses are sparked by everyday mundane activities, usually takes me back to the 80’s and a much more simple time before parents became enlightened helicopters and kids started bringing guns to school to solve their commonplace problems.

While in this haze I’m begging my mother to buy me Cap’n Crunch, if only because of the 2 free baseball cards inside. She obviously isn’t very modern, (alas, this is the 80’s, stick with me here) so the term organic isn’t part of her everyday verbiage, and her idea of a “healthy snack” would be a syrupy granola bar with chocolate chips or a sludgy, faux-cherry fruit cup. The only reason she’s debating this is because she can buy the very same, generic version at a much, much cheaper price by the hideously uninspired name of Crispy Crunch. Well, this was a complication of epic proportions for a 12 year old. There was no chance of getting a fucking Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire card in a box of Crispy Crunch. What to do?

I’m startled out of this mini psychedelic trip by the impatient, too-cool-for-school checker with dreadlocks and a Nirvana t-shirt. She had been calling out to me, and like an idiot I was standing there, in a daze, thinking about the time I wanted to eat a box of sugar- laden crap in order to obtain pieces of cardboard with the likeness of guys who injected steroids in their ass so they could look like Greek gods, break a bunch of records and hit the ball out of the goddamn stratosphere.

Wasn’t it great?

Carney Lansford and the cosmos.

My middle school science teacher was a die-hard Giants fan. Our class listened to the ’89 NLCS game 5 clincher against the Cubs and Mark Grace on a portable radio while she scored the game on the chalkboard. (do these specimens of archaic learning still exist? and does anyone actually score a game anymore?) I pretended to read about black holes and sun spots while my eyes glossed over, staring at absolutely nothing with a slack-jawed bovine expression. Someone had drawn a heavy metal logo on page 237. Perhaps they were enjoying my current landscape of foggy faux-meditation when they had a primal urge to draw something, anything.

“Yesterday we explicitly agreed to quietly do our work as long as we could listen to the game.” she said.

We knew that this was a faulty agreement as she was going to listen to the game regardless of whether we agreed to the shoddy terms or not, and besides, some of us weren’t Giants fans. I couldn’t give a toss about the Giants or science at that time as I was more interested in girls and boobs; not necessarily in that order.

We had spoken about Carney Lansford a few days earlier and his time with the Red Sox. Her boyfriend was a “Southie” from Boston; a second generation working-class, red-haired Irish Mick from a long line of drunks, thieves and lowlifes. He had escaped the sludge and went to some long forgotten East Coast university and he and his stoner buddies would go to Fenway Park on weekends where they had acquired an affinity for Lansford. Of course, she thought all of this was cute and clever and was terribly pleased by it.

“No offense Mrs. Cleveland, but besides Will Clark your team just isn’t very likable. Rick Rueschel looks like a fat, middle-aged divorced dad and Scott Garrelts looks like a skinny nose-picking dork.”

It was true. Both starting pitchers looked like the antithesis of an athlete but the perfect working-class early 20th century farm boy baseball player. Some fans, probably the nerdy, isolationist type can get behind that “average joe” persona and root for them passionately, but in the era of super athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders I would always inexplicably choose the latter over the former.

“Let us not forget that your friend Carney Lansford looks like an accountant,” she said as she swallowed what was supposed to look an aspirin to the general viewer. A few classmates had theorized that she popped vicodin on occasion because of her seemingly more “relaxed” state as the day wore on. This wasn’t a great choice as it ultimately led to bouts of throwing up in the garbage can.

Even more self indulgent childhood memories

Childhood often walks the fine-line between the blissful and boring, and Big League Chew was an integral part of the blissful “baseball experience” that my friends and I so desperately wanted to be part of as young boys. We would scan our stacks of baseball cards and see players like Lenny Dykstra and Tony Gwynn with a not-so-subtle, chipmunk-like slab of tobacco stuck in their cheeks as they posed, bat skillfully wielded in the lazy, sun bleached spring training summer–and we wanted to emulate that with pink, shrouded shreds of sugar-coated goodness. We were hip to the insider culture that only the pros knew about; at least in our own minds.

My parents were insanely cheap; and this didn’t seem to be strange at all as most parents of the 80’s seemed to adhere to this doctrine. My friends and I decided that we would have to be enterprising, so we would knock on doors and ask the neighborhood psychos if we could have the pleasure of raking their lawns for 5 dollars. The riches would be immediately spent a mere four blocks away at the appropriately named Happy Market for some Big league Chew and a couple of packs of baseball cards. The leftover dough would be used to rent a movie that was skillfully chosen in VHS form from the Movie Hut down the street for 1.99 a day, and if we were lucky had the name Schwarzenegger or Van Damme on the box. The solitary zit-faced teen wearing an Iron Maiden shirt at the counter would look up my mom’s rental information on the ancient IBM computer and oblige out of boredom or indifference.

I recently walked around the old neighborhood for the first time in over 20 years. The houses still looked the same, as if time had never happened. There’s where I used to wait for the bus. That’s where I got into a fight with Tim Crumrine. There’s where I used to shoot hoops for hours. That’s where a kid’s dad told another kid to “fuck off” and ran over his skateboard. It was a quiet neighborhood and I was hoping my younger self would walk out of my old house so I could tell him about all the wonderful adventures he would have in the future and warn him about all the mistakes he was going to make. I would tell him to forget his anxieties concerning adulthood and to enjoy the simplicity, lack of corruption and absolute wonder of his life at that moment.

2 boys trading baseball cards, Summer 1974.

Looks like he’s, well, you know.

Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” poured out of the Mustang in the driveway as Pete and Nick sat on the front porch. They had just torn open a few packs of baseball cards and decided to make a few swaps before the cards were relegated to a rubber band and the back pocket of faded dungarees.

“Ok, you like the A’s right? I’ll give you a Dave Hamilton for George Brett.”
“Are you kidding me! You must think I’m a fucking idiot. That’s not a fair trade; and besides, it looks like he’s taking a shit!”
Pete’s older brother, Craig, stopped washing his black treasure and walked over with kinked hose in hand.

“You turds need to shut the hell up before I hose you down. Besides, I got Amy coming over and you two dumbasses aren’t gonna ruin my chance at getting some trim.”

“You haven’t got a chance in hell,” Pete spat, shoving a brick-hard powdered slab of gum in his mouth.

“Keep talking big mouth and I’ll give both you and your stupid friend knuckle sandwiches. You’ll be spittin’ out teeth for a week”

Craig continued washing his car, alone with the hose, the suds, the black beauty and the privacy of his own young and perverted mind.

“He thinks he’s such a big shot.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait until I get older so I can kick his ass…so Dave Hamilton for George Brett?”

Green and Gold Fan Spotlight

Carmen was destined to become an A’s fan from birth, born and raised in Oakland, the child of a 60’s era, black leather jacket clad Huey Newton revolutionary/Berkeley professor and a teenage beauty pageant queen and Cuban refugee. The professor met Zoe at a small community theatre in Palo Alto where his future wife was performing as “Bianca” in Othello. He loved her adaptation and asked her to dinner where they proceeded to eat oysters and wash them down with a dry Cabernet. The oysters must have worked as Carmen was thrust into the world soon thereafter, not even a year later.

The girl became an A’s fan at a young age and would hang out at the Coliseum often on weekends with her high school clique. They would sneak in alcoholic lubricant, snacks and a transistor radio while loitering in the bleachers on lazy Indian summers; sunbathing while listening to the Talking Heads and giving the bleacher creatures something to gawk at between innings. Her favorite player was first baseman Chris Carter because “he was this absolute monstrous, beautiful black man blessed with a pleasant expression on his face and an easy, almost lackadaisical ambiance.”

In the unfit roads of adolescence there are bound to be a few bumps on the way, and Carmen felt these at the hands of the Oakland police. “I had a malleable mind at the time and some friends had influenced me to steal clothing and such. I got busted stealing some door-knockers (earrings) that had my name in the middle. It was so obvious.” When she was busted a second time for stealing art books it was “time for a re-examination of the program.”

Hard work and diligence paid off in 2008 as Carmen graduated with a degree in economics from SF State. She now works as an editor at the San Francisco Weekly. “The Weekly is often given to smart-ass editorializing that seems more geared to getting a reaction than making a concrete point, but it’s fun.”
“I’ve learned that we can be one person’s saint, another person’s genius, and someone else’s imbecile; and this is exactly why I do whatever I feel like doing every day without even an inkling of what anyone else thinks about it.”