Thursday, May 25, 2006

"The Eye-a-toll-ah of Rock-and-Rolla!!!"

Sorry, man, he's been deposed. It's ok; Rock and Roll continues without religious guidance, and The Main Man himself is on a beach in ExDictatorStan, tens of millions wrung out of the blood of his fans as surely as borscht is made from beets.

But did you ever wonder about the deposed royalty of other musical forms? Wonder no more...Fluffy Stuffin has done some research for you!

  • What does Mark Knopfler know about the overthrown Sultan of Swing? Is his band name -- Dire Straights -- a clue of some kind?
  • A close personal 'friend' (shout out to A.H. in Caracas! 9 more years until the big 7-0! Party on the Unter der Linden, baby! Oops, should I be using my 'aloud' voice? M'bad!) informs me the Emir of Easy Listening has slipped back 'in country.' Ohio, one assumes...
  • The Caliph of Calypso has become a true rotter; even his 'girlfriends' won't cover up for him any more...sad...
  • The Rajah of Reggae is now living in East Orange under the name 'Arthur Pynche-Smedley', selling golf equipment to Sunbird Wannabes, and has a restraining order keeping him away from any member of the Marley family for reasons unknown...
  • The Potentate of Punk & the Princess of Punk do their Sid and Nancy re-enactments in the Chelsea Hotel on demand. When you check in, make sure to ask for 'Pedro' and mention that 'Balthazar Getty is still playing pool somewhere up near 64th and Lex', which will get you the show...
  • Le Pope du BeBop trolls the Loire region, hustling wine tourists with the sale of the occasional beret, and hasn't been the same since his contract for clove cigarettes came to an end...
Sounds grim, don't it? But this last bit of good news, obtained through mystical means involving the burning of a "Rockin with Dokken" t-shirt, a lock of hair from a Monkee, a Beatle, and a Cricket, and some sweat off the top of Brian Eno's head, should cheer you up:

The Monarch of Muzak is eternally in a elevator that has buttons for floors, but no floors, and plays Ute Lemper, Yma Sumac, Primus, Diamanda Galas, Gwar and a toy piano and a theramin, all at the same time, while the elevator goes up and down and up and the Twilight Zone.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I take the tag 2!

from Camie:

I AM: filled with an evil sparkling energy which constantly seeks outlets, and a wisdom full of pranks.
I WANT: a home of my own, in a woods in a city.
I HATE: slickness, vanity, having to constuct a life which is mainly a lie just to hold a 'job.'
I MISS: travelling -- with Camie.
I FEAR: being abandoned by everyone.
I HEAR: that that Scarlett Johannson has some major league hooters. I must investigate.
I WONDER: why I bother even trying.
I REGRET: not seeing that the person I choose to marry would have been such a big disaster to me.
I AM NOT: all that interested in careerism.
I DANCE: with Ginger Rogers every chance I can get. Camie knows what this means.
I SING: badly, but freely and unafraid.
I SEE: that life is mostly a pain in the ass. Feh!
I CRY: deep, heavy tears, that no one ever sees.
I AM NOT ALWAYS: the most tactful.
I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: little ingots of words, drip, drip, drip.
I WRITE: to create the shape of my mental form, the words forming the boundry between the inner chaos and the outer world.
I CONFUSE: people who sound good with people who do good.
I NEED: find a reason to wonder why should bother trying.
I SHOULD: stop needing and wondering.
I START: my car with a key. Everything else, I don't start, I react and watch.
I FINISH: things that need to be killed by killing them.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

For Camie: Icy Roads, Human Evil

Yes, Camie, the field I just described for baseball purposes was in fact the land where much winter meyhem took place. Let me share this mayhem now with the world.

Rather than launch into a Garrison Keiler-like narrative filled with nostalgic syrup, let me lay it on straight. It was a land of much evil. This was a Westinghouse warehouse (now a mental institution!) which had a narrow road which ended in a downward sloping loop, between two warehouses near a railroad track. The trucks would come down and back into the receiving dock of a warehouse and off they would go after they unloaded. Except of course in winter where packs of weasly street rats would grab buckets of water and throw them on the downslopes, with the intention of creating a glare ice surface. This would be done after daytime work hours, so that in the morning, we would hide and wait for the fools who would try and brake on that ice, with our goal being their skidding into the train tracks, and, if we were especially lucky, perhaps a toppling over of some semi truck! I never saw this event, but heard rumors of it being seen, which was good enough to fill us full of delighted mallace.

This was not the worst of the Winter Follies; not as long as our games of "Crack The Whip" were being played on the very same road. It was the dumbest of ideas: we all skate down in a line, (no one had actually skates, just worn-out shoes) and somehow, the "winners" would be the persons who could skate back up the hill on the other side of the loop. This was basically impossible, so for those kids who actually figured it out, they knew the real goal was to get your enemies careening into each other with as much billiard-ball like violence as possible. Injuries? Good! Blood? Very Good! Something broken? Ah...that's just the best! And yet...everyone played in it!

Have I gotten to the bad part yet? Nope! Snowball Fights...from hell. Kids would form cliques based on the dumbest of reasons. I remember joining up with kids all wearing blue, and I was in red, which, by kid logic, entitled me to be 'captain', which everyone agreed with! Throwing the snow around that was nice, but then people sought protection which led to the creation of Snow Forts from which produced an upspiral of technological horror! The Snow Catapults and Snow Mortars didn't work so well, but dunking the snowballs in water, and giving them enough time...these kinetic penetrators did a pretty good job of chopping off the turrets of the Snow Forts, but upon seeing a kid or two wacked with essentially a Snow Hardball, some clever tyke thought that....if you packed ball bearings in the snowballs, even more violence would take place, and sure as shootin', that was true! Which in turn led to the Mark III SnowBall With Ball Bearings Dunked In Water, for an even more sublime understanding of the fragmentation weapon principle.

But the Wonder Weapon that was built but never used? Snow, Ball Bearings and...fishhooks, dunked in water briefly. Yikes, you'd rip off a kids face with one of those! Well, yeah, I think that was the idea! The little degenerate who made like 20 of these things got caught by his mom when he tried to hide them in the freezer! All hell broke loose after that and even our lackadaisical parents got involved in saying that they would put an end to the Snowball War that ended all Snowball Wars. Which they did.

People ask me, "How can we Bomb a Dresden? or Rape a Nanking? or Build a Gulag?"

I never wonder about such questions; I learned the answers at a very young age, on a snowy field in Detroit.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"I'll be damned, here comes that..."

This is the first in a series of posts, all of which will connect at some point.

As a kid I played a lot of baseball. Where I was growing up, there were organized leagues, Little League and such, but the kids in our neighborhood shunned them all in favor of the way we played, which was not unlike the formation of Italian Governments; pure chaos. Cliques would form, friendships would rise and fall, sometimes you'd play on the same team as kids you hated just because you were bored with your friends, none of it mattered. What mattered was getting good; you stunk, you sat, and nobody said boo about it. Practically any random assemblage of us would have creamed any of the organized teams because they didn't play enough. We would be out there sunup to sundown, hammering away.

We played on a series of overgrown grassy fields connected by Westinghouse warehouses. Those warehouses were a trip themselves, but I'll save that one up. One of the fields required a regular catcher,etc., but the other was against a wall sort of, flanked by cherry trees that served as 'dugouts' because they were the coolest place to sit on those hot ballyards. The trees were close, but not too close, to the warehouses, such that the howler monkeys among us would clamber up the trees and leap onto to the tar roofs of buildings chasing after foul tips. Other things would be bring down from up there, like half-empty liquor bottles, parts of mysterious design, and, a working typewriter. The grass ended in a gracefully curved arch, that was a roadway for trucks to come through, and after that gravel and glass nightmare, was a second grassy area that extended to the next warehouse.

I was a scrawny kid with a good arm for my age, and the only bat I had for the longest time was a 42 ounce monster with Harry Heilmann's name burned into it somewhere around 1925. There was no knob, so one was formed out of electrical tape, rubber cement, and more electrical tape. In the summer months, it would just slide off like a goop of tobacco chaw, and I'd have to choke the bat practically half way up. Given that the bat was almost bigger than me, this meant I had to slap a lot of singles every which way, and I became a Master of Bat Control. If I could've run better than a fireplug, I'd have been the greatest bunter on earth, but alas...

This all changed when I got a 33 ounce Henry Aaron bat with a whippet-thin handle and a huge bat head. I felt like The Hulk Unchained from that point on, and I extracted revenge on everyone who dared played third base. I viewed them like ducks in a shooting gallery, and more than once did I hit a liner so hard it knocked the glove off some saps hand! It was tremendous.

But one kid, who did a lot of pitching...I just had a hard time hitting him, he threw hard and had an odd Tiant-like motion, which I just couldn't see. I can't remember the kids name, just that he had a face like the cartoony mascot of the Cleveland Indians, angular, squinting, always some kind of daffy, toothy grin, even when he wasn't smiling.

But this time I saw the pitch when it was behind his head, still in his hand. By the time it was closing in on his ear, I thought, “I’ll be damned, here comes that little shit fastball he throws,” saying that in my mind just like I had read it in Ted Williams’ My Turn at Bat, only in Ted’s case, it was about Jim Bunning. Those words…they weren’t obscene, or even cranky to me, it was a Zen coen of how much you could see of the world in so little time….

I knew I was going to crush it, and when I knew that, everything relaxed. My hands were loose, I was set up just so, mind, head, heart. I didn’t want to hit another of my frozen rope liners, I wanted to drive it, and drive it as deep as I could. And that’s what happened; it took off so quickly and so high, I couldn’t see it, so I watched the centerfielder, who took two steps back, and watched it sail over his head. On the fly, of all things, it hit the sidewalk of the Second Grass, the one that led to a door that led to…what? We never knew. When it hit the sidewalk, on one hop, it crashed through an unprotected glass pane – tink! – almost soundlessly, the ball never to be seen again, perhaps winding up in a jet engine, but most likely made into a refrigerator.

It wasn’t the hardest baseball I ever hit; there were times when you close your eyes and whip the bat through the zone, and like sub-atomic particles, the bat and the ball go all Hiroshima and you get a dinger. But I was never before or since as conscious about hitting the ball as I was in that small moment.

Are these things happy accidents without a context? Do they mean something more than mere good performance? I wish I knew. But I do know this: I’ve never forgotten it.