brewers baseball and things

the sound of beer

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Three generations of brick layers and all Gus Van Dabble could dream of was becoming a carnival barker and this was no cotton candy in the armory parking lot whim. Gus longed for trailer parks and dusty roads, Tulsa, Baton Rouge, and go go go. 

His father Frank bought him an aquarium and would have driven him all the way to Timbuktu, anything to woo his boy back to the bricklaying fold and Kenosha baseball, but it was no use. Gus loved voices and would walk an extra mile to hear a barker or a train conductor, construction foreman, poet, disc jockey or Muslim call to prayer. Voices.

“Into the Milky Way I wander,” Gus sang to his father. “for the crunch of a cowboy boot, the cloppity clop of a hottie`s high heel stiletto, the electric chirp of crickets. Sounds and more sounds. Voices and sounds, The Uni-fied-Verse.”

Frank looked up at the ceiling and remembered the days of unraveling a baseball with his boy, strand by strand. They would then wrap the yarn around the family Christmas tree, round and round until Gus tired and Frank would read from the only book he ever read to his boy-Baseball’s Zaniest Stars. Sleeping pill for little Gussie.

The Northwoods League arrived to Kenosha in 2014 and Frank liked to sit on a bench  outside Simmons Field, listen to the Kenosha Kingfish crowd, but when he returned home, the only sounds were Gus performing vocal cord stretches and alliteration tongue runs. His voice flew up and down the Doh Reh Mee, and the gusto felt like a slap in Frank`s face,  a wake up call reminder; that parenting was nothing but eggs and sperm and similar shaped fingernails. A kid’s  dreams were different. They came from somewhere else.

“Step right up boys and girls,” Gus sang. “Test your luck against the miraculous Miranda Mermaid and one of her seven swinging tentacles.”

Frank liked the giddy up in his son’s voice and felt an urgency to be with him before he took off for the Milky Way and what better place than Lake Andrea. The Van Dabble’s cabin existed for four generations and Gus never turned down a week in the woods with mosquitoes, not since he was a boy anyway.

Frank wanted to share his excitement about baseball being back in Kenosha during the drive, but he knew better, didn’t want to cause his son the other kind of fever so Frank thought quietly about Satchel Paige and Warren Spahn playing at Simmons Field, the Kenosha Girl Comets too. He wondered if the Kingfish players of today knew about the wood grandstands burning down way back when? 

Gus lowered himself slowly into Lake Andrea that first morning. The algae was longer than previous years. Slimier too. Felt like mummy strands wrapping around Gus`s legs. Lake monsters flashed through his mind. He splashed his way out of the water, too scared to care if anyone was watching and raced inside. He was still wet when he slid under blankets and hid like a dog during fourth of July fireworks.

Frank knew the moment was right and when he looked over at his son and saw a face staring back at him with a beggar’s will for anything, Frank jumped into action.

“How about we take a drive,“ he suggested.“ And so Frank became the tour guide he once was to his boy and they drove back to town, parked the car, and walked around Simmons Field. Gus never said a word. He was simply relieved to have the lake monsters out of his head.

Kenosha was hosting the Madison Mallards. Frank bought two tickets and when Gus showed no signs of resistance, they slipped through the turnstiles, into a dream for Frank. He was at the ball game with his boy and when beer vendors let loose their beautiful bellows, the dream came to Gus as well. His ears twitched and eyes opened wide. Gus mumbled quietly during the remainder of the game and all that night, integrating new sounds into his internal barker data base. Frank felt the window of opportunity opening wide. The next morning he presented his son a blue beverage hawker and lowered it over his neck. Gus felt like a king being crowned.

The grandstands of Simmons Field filled that summer. They came to see a Jason Scholl home run and to hear Gus sing his serenade to a beer cup or haiku rap for the baseball pill moonlight. Every day a different beer vendor bark. Kids dropped their mitts and impersonated Gus`s voice and the older crowd spoke in softer whispers, “Did you hear Gus today? “Felt like a carnival the way he hit those up and down notes.“ 

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Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

10 thoughts on “the sound of beer

  1. Absolutely beautiful, man. I know I’m repeating myself, but I think this piece is one of my favorites.
    -Bill

  2. Steve – Well, here I am repeating myself. All within a minute or two. This happens in real across the table cup of coffee in hand conversation sometimes. Lots of reasons that can happen, of course. But maybe there’s no excuse when writing. Except, I just truly enjoy reading Brewers Baseball and Things and I’m lost for adjectives at the moment (and anyway, may have used them up when commenting on your previous posts).

    It’s so easy to get pulled into the stories that you write.

    • Thanks Bruce. I’m glad you get pulled in and appreciate you saying so. It means a lot to me. Maybe stream of consciousness is more like coffee table conversation or maybe one of the Jim Brosnan books. Those are amazing mirrors of reality the way he was able to recreate conversations. It was as if he had recorded them.

  3. “Frank looked up at the ceiling and remembered the days of unraveling a baseball with his boy, strand by strand. They would then wrap the yarn around thee family Christmas tree, round and round until Gus tired and Frank would read from the only book he ever read to his boy-Baseball’s Zaniest Stars. Sleeping pill for little Gussie.”

    Me, too, Steve! “Baseball’s Zaniest Stars” by Howard Liss was my favorite book when I was in 7th grade (along with “Base Burglar” by Jackson Sholz, a corny novel from the 50s where all baseball players said “gosh” and “gee whiz” and “golly gee willickers” and stuff like that.) But I didn’t know that it was corny and that baseball players cussed and fucked until I read “Ball Four” later that year.

    Did you read “Baseball’s Zaniest Stars”, Steve? My favorite chapters was the one about Rabbit Maranville wallowing soap chips to make him foam at the mouth so that his fellow Braves players would think he had rabies, and how he swam across the Charles River to Braves Park just because he didn’t feel like taking the bridge.

    I wrote a book report on “Baseball’s Zaniest Stars” in Mrs. Schwartz’s reading class, and she gave me an A+ on it. That was the highlight of my life.

    It’s been all downhill from there!

    Glen

    • Glen, your story about Mrs, Schwartz had me laughing. Yes, I still have the book, but don’t remember a damn thing except that it was a hardcover. The book is in Milwaukee and I will be there later this summer and you’ve inspired me to read it again or at least the part about Marranville swimming the Charles river to Braves Park to avoid the bridge. Thanks Glen!

  4. Blame it on baseball in Kenosha, the game we love (it’s not much of a comment, but if you sing it to the tune of “blame It On The Bossa Nova, it gets better.)

    • I kind of felt that way about the Spice Girls song “The Lady is a Vamp” but then again I just listened to the song again and it’s been a while and well, I didn’t exactly fling my fedora on the floor, but if i wore one, who knows?