Quote #10

July 15, 2008

Pere’s your next quote from “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72″ by Hunter S. Thompson. Page 72.

A lot has been written about McGovern’s difficulties on the campaign trail, but most of it is far off the point. The career pols and press wizards say he simply lacks “charisma,” but that’s a cheap and simplistic idea that is more an insult to the electorate than to McGovern. The assholes who run politics in this country have become so mesmerized by the Madison Avenue school of campaigning that they actually believe, now, that all it takes to become a Congressman or a Senator – or even President – is a nice set of teeth, a big wad of money, and a half-dozen Media Specialists.

And, things haven’t changed at all (which has been the point of these entries, but I wanted to reiterate, just in case.)

Better make sure your kids get braces if you want them to be president. The money and media specialists will take care of themselves.


The Mysterious Taco Bell Receipt

July 15, 2008

This one still puzzles me. It was the first picture of the boxed items that I took. Somehow, I have saved a Taco Bell receipt from August 19, 1991. Somehow, I wrapped said Taco Bell receipt around a group of baseball cards. From different years and different companies. Along with Upper Deck Looney Tunes cards.

The cards don’t have any pattern. It’s not like they are from a strat team or an early rotisserie team. (I’d hope I didn’t have Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes, Marvell Wynne, Mark Thurmond and Bob Brower as the core of any team.) Only Rex Hudler kind of makes sense as he was a Cardinals favorite as they suffered through the early 90s. I loved the Wonder Dog. He still makes me smile with his unbridled enthusiasm for the game as an Angels announcer.

I could understand the receipt if it was for two bean burritos with extra onions. You see, that was my special signal to Jimmy Fessler that I was at the drive thru of the Taco Bell on Providence in Columbia, MO and hungry. (Not an uncommon condition. Even today. Except for the Columbia, MO part. Still, I can always make room for Shakespeare’s Pizza when I drive through Columbia.)

Jimmy would peer out the window, confirm it was me, laugh to himself, and then make two of the fattest bean burritos you would ever want to see.* I had a burrito that crunched once because of the number of onions. I didn’t have a date that……year, so it was all good.

* I love the things that we do in college to save money, legal and illegal. Two bean burritos, and from the receipt we know that would only be about a buck and a quarter with tax, and I would be full for the night. However, I still can’t believe I ever willingly drank King Kobra malt liquor. I can believe I tried to steal a keg from a dorm party once. Somehow the hosts spotted a big silver keg “hidden” in the middle of a field.

But, the date tells me it was the year before I met Jimmy. So, almost seventeen years after I went to Taco Bell store number 456, I still have a receipt to commemorate that experience. One good thing – I know it couldn’t have been a date, because I only got one large Mountain Dew. I doubt even I would be that cheap to buy one drink and share it with my date. Or, for heaven’s sake, to take a date to Taco Bell, unless I had some wonderfully overdeveloped sense of chutzpah that day.

Unless we went dutch. Damn, that would be good. Let’s just pretend that’s it. Balls. Big as church bells. Taking a date to Taco Bell and going dutch. Then going to the lake in Capaha Park and feeding the ducks the leftover soft taco scraps. Maybe catching a free baseball game at Capaha Field. Then climbing the fence to sneak into Capaha pool after hours. Going to Kidd’s afterwards and buying baseball cards and giving the cool cards to my date. A bouquet of all-stars which would be so much better than flowers. The ultimate cheap date if you know you’re already in like Flynn. Yes, and I saved the receipt and the leftover cards to prove I was that damn good.

Otherwise, it’s just a Taco Bell receipt.

Blossom Bar

July 5, 2008

Above Blossom Bar
I got an email this week that caused the pit in my stomach to swell. This pit only forms in fits of nervousness, or thinking of those times of nervousness, even as I write now. I remember having it when I went bungy-jumping out of a hot air balloon during the summer after I graduated. Every time I step on stage, it’s there to varying degrees. I remember it hitting with particular force when I asked a girl I liked to go out on a date with me. (Fortunately, I had John Tudor on my side that day.) It also hits whenever I go rafting, which is how this blog entry started.

The email concerned an article on an experienced rafter losing her life on the rapid known as Blossom Bar on the Rogue River. A group of friends and I rafted down that same section of the Rogue River back in 2004. A friend, Scott Eggimann, put it best, “There but for the grace of Shiva….”

Blossom Bar. This was the one rapid where we had to be our best. The waters were calm leading to a take out point where we could scout the rapids. Most of the folks were in a raft. A couple were in kayaks. I was the pilot of our oar boat. I had to provide the power and the steering for Rich and myself for this rapids after a long day in the sun on the river. My first class IV rapid by myself. Even now, the self-doubt creeps inside of me, as the pit grows more anxious.

We scouted. We read the recommended way to attack Blossom Bar. I wondered deep inside if there was a way to portage around. A way to just pick up and avoid this danger. There wasn’t.

The raft went first. They didn’t make it to the correct side and got stuck behind a rock as they tried to figure out what to do. I watched. I waited. The pit grew.

The raft took the other way. They got through. The kayakers went next and made it down on the recommended side with no problems. Now, it was my turn.

Excuse me while I take a deep breath. My fingers tremble as I write this. Even searching for the images from other rafting trips on this same rapid heightened the rawness of my nerves. I don’t know why rafting causes this anxiety. This was my third trip rafting trip with this group of friends. I’d also been canoeing twice in the Boundary Waters as well as several different canoe trips growing up in Missouri. I’m a strong swimmer. All I know is that thinking about this particular rapid still unnerves me.
Entering Blossom Bar

Rich and I climbed aboard and pushed off into the Rogue. I pulled as hard as I could to get to the far side of the rapids.

I failed.

We ended up right at the same rock as the raft before us. We had to take the less than optimal route.

The rest of the rapid is a blur. Rich had out a paddle and was trying to help. I yelled at him to stop as he was altering our path and my control. “Control” is overstating quite a bit, as we were at the mercy of the river. We bounced off rocks, my oar got stuck on a rock and bent in half, but didn’t break. Then, as quickly as it began, we were through and our friends applauded us on the downstream side.

As I just wrote that, an ease settled over me. The rapid was over. We made it. I don’t know how. We just did.

I’ve grown to trust that pit. It lets me know when I need to be at my best. However, my best was not good enough. In this case, it came down to luck. I don’t know how luck works, I’m just glad it was with me on that day. I wish it had been there for the kayaker last week.

Time, The Alan Parsons Project and Friday Night with Youtube

June 28, 2008

How did I start thinking about The Alan Parsons Project tonight? Well, it was because the ioWest was hit with an SUV on Thursday. Let me sum up…wait, let me explain.

I just woke up from a Friday evening nap, one of life’s little pleasures. Every once in a while, like tonight, I’ll try to fight it, thinking, I must stay awake, it’s a Friday night. Then cool, calm rationality takes over, or as I call it, sleep.

So, then I head over to the ol’ internet just to see what is happening. Looking over the Big News board, I realize that I’ll have a lot of time for my own writing in the next couple of weeks as the ioWest is repaired (as will a lot of folks.) I must have been in a reflective mood anyway as I had just viewed an interview of George Carlin by Ralph Kiner on the youtube and started to read an account of how the poet Billy Collins was inspired by one of my all-time favorites, Looney Tunes.

So, immediately I went to my own history and started to think of my first favorite band, The Alan Parsons Project, since “Time” was one of their biggest hits. I think I first was exposed to the song on a collection of hits called “Dimensions” from that great compiler of hits, K-Tel Records. As with most things from your youth, it is probably more fondly remembered than it is. I looked at the lyrics, and saw there wasn’t a whole bunch there.

However, there was enough there for me to use it as my interpretive song for a drama class in high school. I got an A- and surprisingly didn’t have my lunch money stolen afterwards.

While looking for the lyrics, I saw there was a youtube link. That’s when the nostalgia started flowing like the Mississippi River during flood stage. The video, with “Time” playing underneath, had a ton of cool nature images. The fourth one got me to sit up and watch closer as I swore it was a view of Maroon Lake near Aspen. (As I write, I confirmed it isn’t, but still the journey starts there, and even a journey that starts under false pretenses is still a journey, or am I getting too metaphysical? Let’s just get “Physical” and go on with the show. Cue the lights….)

From there, it was just one long trip. Watching a turntable spin “Eye in the Sky” and thinking of all the old vinyl that I had. Watching “Don’t Answer Me” and thinking of Lichtenstein, how animation has changed and how a good story still is the base on which those images rely. Watching “Let’s Talk About Me” and realizing that some things are better left in the past. Watching “Prime Time” and feeling somewhere in between.

Favorite bands change and even now, I am not without sheepishness to admit to a past love, and even a bit of a current one, for The Alan Parsons Project or later groups like Hall and Oates, Night Ranger, David Lee Roth and Dokken. I’m not even sure if I can say that I like the music as much as the memories. Remind me to tell you about Butch someday.

So, now it’s 11 pm and I’m fully awake. I just loaded “The Best of The Alan Parsons Project Volume 2” from my old CD technology into my itunes (which is surprisingly categorized as rock, and looking at “The Turn of a Friendly Card”, progressive rock even), so that I can take some of those travels again as I shuffle songs or feel the siren call of Eric Woolfson calling me back to my childhood.

Quotes #8 and 9

June 10, 2008

“Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72″ by Hunter S. Thompson. Page 371.

The other vice-presidential finalists were rejected for a variety of reasons that don’t really matter much now, because the point of the whole grim story is that McGovern and his brain-trust were determined from the start to use the VP as a peace offering to the Old Politics gang they’d just beaten. It was crucial, they felt, to select somebody acceptable to the Old Guard: The Meany/Daley/Muskie/Humphrey/Truman/LBJ axis – because McGovern needed those bastards to beat Nixon.

Which may be true – or at least as true as the hoary wisdom that said a maverick like McGovern couldn’t possibly win the Democratic nomination because Ed Muskie began the campaign with a lock on the Party Machinery and all the pols who matter.

So, now that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, he must choose his running mate. A CNN poll shows that 22 percent of Hillary supporters would stay at home and another 17 percent would vote for McCain if Clinton is not named as VP. So, the selection of Hillary is obvious, correct? Or, will the selection of a Clintoncrat dissuade young supporters of Obama that he really seeks change from the past 28 years of Bush/Clinton?

Which leads to this quote on page 174:

“I’ve always thought that the blue-collar vote had to be a source of his strength,” said Frank Mankiewicz, McGovern’s main strategist. “It always seemed to me that McGovern – not as the anti-war candidate but as the ‘change’ candidate – would appeal more to Middle America than he would to any other group. They’re the ones with the most to gain from change and they’re the ones who get screwed by the way we do business in this country.”

With Clinton’s already strong support among the blue-collar vote, and the increasing probability of recession due to rapidly increasing oil prices, an Obama/Clinton “Change” candidacy in the face of a crumbling economy may be the surest thing this side of a New England pro sports franchise.


June 9, 2008

So, I’m walking home last night, as I do most every night that I actually leave my humble abode. There’s not much thinking once you get past Selma and Cahuenga and can finally stop dodging the club goers as they lurch and preen their way around sidewalks. So, naturally, I can just retreat back in my thoughts with only the occasional pedestrian hating car or Scientologist handing out free tickets to the Psychiatry An Industry of Death Museum to interrupt my reverie.

Last night, I’m in front of the 7-11 at Sunset and Cherokee when I notice two guys side by side coming toward me and incredibly taking up the entire sidewalk, leaving me no choice but to walk between them. Well, just as I get close, one says to me, hey I got a question for you, and before I can say that I don’t have change, he tells me he doesn’t want my money. Which is usually code to mean, I don’t want your money until I tell you my story. Unfortunately, he meant it.

He opens his next sentence with, “So tell me, one white guy to another” and I imagine that my face wrinkled, tilted to the side and generally appeared aghast, as there can’t be a good way for this sentence to end. My lack of a poker face must have been very apparent, because he changed his tact mid-sentence and said, “don’t worry, wood” and picked up his shirt to reveal a tattoo of “Wood” across his mid-section.

I am so glad I now know the secret word with which to approach other white guys on the street. All I need to say is “Wood” and immediately I’ll be in like Flynn with the secret cadre of white guys, since they are so mysterious. My next meeting in the Finance department, I’ll trot out “Wood” and immediately all the white guys will know we can get to discussing barbecues and baseball instead of boring old balance sheets once everyone else leaves. I’m so happy to know this, because discussing finance is becoming a bit tedious.

Of course, this, ahem, guy, didn’t want to discuss balance sheets, baseball or even barbecue. The rest of the question was “Where are the hookers?” Then, he started whistling at a girl walking down the other side of the street.

I have a feeling I don’t know the whole “wood” picture. Maybe there’s a handshake involved as well. I hope I’m never stranded in North Dakota without the rest of the picture.

Autograph #3 – Stanley Jefferson

May 21, 2008

I started to really get into baseball in high school due to my good friend Jim Freund. For some reason, the City of Cape Girardeau needed a lifeguard at the wading pool in Arena Park. It couldn’t have been more than two feet deep, but Jim was assigned there and would bring a lawn chair and sit by the pool during the summer. I started to ride my bike over to see him and hang out. That’s when I got introduced to Strat-o-matic baseball.

As an aside, I think that Strat-o-matic also introduced to me the importance of on base percentage and slugging percentage. Guys that had a decent batting average, but no walks, would generally have worse cards than those who walked all the time. Plus, more extra base hits meant better hits on their good columns. As I started to track players in anticipation of next year’s strat cards, I would keep an eye on their batting average, extra base hits and walks. Later, it just became obvious to use OBA and SLG to evaluate the quality of players.

We would play strat as he kept a casual eye on occasional toddler that would brave the deep side of the wading pool and we fought epic battles between the titans of the 80s – Sid Fernandez, Charlie Hough, Willie Randolph, Eric Davis, Ryne Sandberg, Jody Davis and the rest.

So, as I started to follow players, I followed the hot prospects and those next future stars you could draft on your team. That’s when I found Stanley Jefferson. He was a can’t miss guy from what I remember. Speed, power, average, defense, a real five-tool player. Somehow, I wanted to prove my knowledge and my faith in Stanley Jefferson, so I named my car after him. My maroon Oldsmobile Delta 88 diesel, one of the infamous bad cars of the 80s. Huge clouds of black smoke would come from the exhaust. Virtually no pickup. However, it was roomy for bunches of friends to fit inside and could survive virtually unscathed as I bumped into poles, curbs and other cars, as I would forget to pay attention to where I was. How I connected it to Stanley Jefferson, I don’t know. But the name stuck.

On the other hand, naming my parents silver Buick Electra after Mitch Williams made a lot more sense. I mean the license plate was LHP 358 and Mitch Williams was a left-handed reliever with a 3.58 ERA the year before. I think the Buick was a lot more reliable on the last few miles to home though.

So, Stanley Jefferson carried me around for the rest of high school and on into college. All of my college friends as well as the high school ones knew his name. Alas, Stan broke down by the side of the road along highway 40 near Kirkwood, MO on a trip back home. It was a sad day when I had to say good-bye to Stan, my faithful companion for many years. The car had lasted longer than his namesake’s career in the majors.

A couple years later, my good friend Kris Hooper was working for the Nashville Sounds where Stanley still toiled, in what I assume was a hope to still make it in the majors. Kris knew about my former car’s name and asked for an autograph on my behalf and told Stanley about my story. I can’t imagine even in the strange light of hero worship where professional athletes exist that he had heard that one before. Stanley gave him a quizzical look, but signed the ball.

I doubt I could have ever asked him for an autograph, but I treasure the fact that I have it as it reminds me of the innocence of youth and the idea of limitless potential. I could get many more autographs, but I doubt any would be as personal as that one.

Last year, I came across a story where Stanley Jefferson was linked to the events of 9/11 at the World Trade Center. It was just another story, one of millions, about how that tragedy touched so many of us. I’m sure a lot of people read it – and felt the sorrow that Stanley felt. I know that the events of that day will always be in my memory – as I sat in my cubicle and tried to work, unable to grasp what had happened. Stanley gave me insight into a bigger personal tragedy and how impossible it can be to put it behind you. Waking up everyday. Not wanting to get out of bed. Dragging yourself through the daily grind. Not knowing how to leave the house. Not thinking there is anything worthwhile out there. Wondering if you’ll ever feel safe. Trying to find anything to make you laugh for just a little bit. Repeating it everyday.

I still think of Stanley. I hope things have gotten better for him. Yes, there are bigger heroes in the realm of baseball and the greater realm of life, but to me, he’ll always be a favorite.