brewers baseball and things


an 11-inning affair

Amy Roma was in awe the way pedals opened in spring, the way birds built nests, ants hills, and bees hives. She greeted the sun every morning with a wave of her hands like a drunk Pentecostal. She stared at stars, learned the constellations, danced under the moon. Many stamped her as an itinerant preacher and then settled back in their brood.

Johnny Turin liked the Seattle Mariners, specifically the 1977 expansion squad because it marked the return of major league baseball to the Emerald City, after seven long seasons without. He liked the continuity of colors, the yellow and blue, the same colors the previous team in Seattle wore, the Pilots, who relocated to Milwaukee after just one season to become the Brewers, on account of the team going bankrupt, supposedly. It wasn’t that Johny Turin didn’t like flowers and cats and moon phases and pearls hanging from blades of grass; he just didn’t notice. He was too busy, gloating on behalf of Bob Stinson’s .360 OB% in 1977.

Amy Roma and Johny Turin met at a mutual friend’s funeral. Johnny knew he was a slave to his thoughts, but he knew they were medicine too, mellowing the sting of his dead best friend, that starting lineup of the 1977 Mariners serving him like a sweet lullaby.

“How’d you know him?” asked Amy Roma. It was the question you’d expect someone to ask at funeral, small talk, selfish in a sense, to make the one asking the question feel a little less alone. But Amy Roma wasn’t done. There were tall, stoic evergreens hanging over the hole where Henry Wobbler was being laid to rest. And there were squirrels playing their game of tag, racing around some other kind of tree and it was fall and so leaves were red and yellow and falling and swaying and it was intoxicating to Amy Roma.

“Let’s walk,” she said, almost insisted to Johnny Turin. He was thinking about Diego Segui’s 0-7 record in 1977 and dismal 5.69 ERA and yet he only allowed 108 hits in 110.2 innings, so he nodded and grunted “Uh huh” in confusion and followed her as if he were under some strange spell. They strolled and the damn life sprouts from death rule was in full effect with tall grasses growing wild and free above buried bodies and this tickled Amy Roma to wax on about cycles and photosynthesis and gravitational pull and eventually this gnawed at Johnny Turin’s mind, ruined his concentration, his pleasant obsession over the Mariners not losing 100 games in their inaugural season and three players on that team hitting over 20 home runs and to stop Amy Roma from gushing over skies and suns and planets, he recited their names…

“Dan Meyer, Ruppert Jones, Leroy Stanton” and then he said them in the opposite order, “Stanton, Jones, and Meyer” and when he was done with that he rattled off the names of a few pitchers, hoping to gain an edge over this Amy Roma, but she knew the names; she knew the Mariners of 1977 and 2022 too and wondered if they would make the playoffs and she also considered the assassination of John F. Kennedy and why, in 2006, had the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to “dwarf planet” status and what kind of bat and ball games were played in ancient Egypt and as always, she wondered out loud and this mention of Egypt had Johnny thinking about his dead friend Henry Wobbler and how he had walked to the Nature Reserve on that Sunday as he always did, but that day he didn’t take in the cranes and turkeys and cardinals. He climbed the tower to get a better view of Mount Ranier, took a deep breath and jumped to his death.

“So how did you know him?” asked Johnny.

And she told him about the volunteering where they met and then about Eugenio Suarez and all the homeruns he had hit that season, “and with so few RBI’s” and than about “Logan Gilbert’s slider” and Johnny had questions and so it went, back and forth, Johnny not realizing that he was slipping further and further from the 77 Mariners and into 2022.

Amy Roma led them under the wrought iron Cemetery awning, like some ancient chuppa, into the rest of the day and the Mariners were playing that night and the two went to the game, against the Texas Rangers and the Mariners won 10-9 in 11 innings and it seemed fitting to both Amy Roma and Johnny Turin that it would go extra innings because they had a lot more to talk about and there was another game the next night too…



the good enough marriage

i heard you’re into restoring victorian vases now and you wear sexy, great shoes and diamond earrings and your hair is the perfect color, some amazing mix of your natural beauty and synthetic crayola oils and curls at the end, perfect to stare at and twirl and i respect all that like i worshipped you a few decades ago and wondered where you got that necklace and your dark eyes and i know some work in diamond mines and others wear diamonds and i know i’m the one who has to work in the mines, but if i could go back, i would have softly held your hand and walked us over the tracks to the trestle and the unpredictable river where old philosophers had determined the same – unpredictable and we’d walk on and i would feel from your softness that you agreed and we’d finally smooch inside a giant, colorful cement tube on the kid’s playground where probably preschoolers did naughty things like we would do and the stars would agree and all of these trespasses from the simple touch of our hands, we’d sneak port wine into the cemetery and drink and I would proudly feel responsible for luring you into becoming the best damned viper in the world and we’d eat breakfast at Sal’s Diner, 1.99 for two eggs, toast, bacon and all the coffee we could drink and god, would we drink lots of coffee, us the kshhhh kshhhh of a needle that refuses to let go of the LP and you’d balance the sugar tower on sugar grains and i’d read the sports page, studying the boxscores and Joey Wiemer’s yesterday 0 for 3, but I’m sure he ran down a few fly balls and I’d totally forget about you and you’d kiss me on the lips and hug me because of my sudden absence and then I’d punch you on the shoulder for interrupting my brewers baseball reverie and we’d still both be feeling the previous night’s cemetery port wine high and it would be time to go to work and we’d send each other on our own ways, onto our own dance floors, spreading our own kind of love and maybe sneak some kisses with strangers and then we’d meet by the tracks after work and do it all over again come sundown whisky this time and sunrise back at the diner and sun would set and sun would rise and I’d know Viperette, as I would start calling you was bringing a little flamenco into the world, into me too…


pickles, trains, and Suzie Garcia

It was the smell of pickles because nothing in the world smells quite like pickles or come to think of it, they weren’t yet pickles; they were in the beginning stages; they were only cucumbers, but well on their way, in the canning process which was something I knew nothing about as a 13-year old, but I had a hunch a jar musta leaked because the place reeked like vinegar. That’s what it was. Yes, vinegar. We were at Damien Murphy’s house or not his house, his parent’s house or pa-rental’s house as we called our moms and dads back then, pa-rentals, us the stowaway borders enjoying free food and rent.

Damien’s parents were out of town and they left his older brother in charge. Some charge. Benji bought us a case of fat mouth Mickey’s malt beer, the bottles like little glass grenades. I don’t’ remember the proof of the alcohol, but we didn’t need to know. We had all the proof we needed in knowing that we were on the slow journey towards a drunken attitude adjustment.

Benji left the beer beside the milk chute in the backyard, in some bushes out of sight from the Krosnoski neighbors. They were volunteers at the Zoo and liked to stick their nose where it didn’t belong. The beer being hidden added to the contraband feel of the night. We smuggled the beer and ourselves into the Murphy’s three story home. The back porch had four pillars which was very significant. It was the only house on the block with four pillars! We tiptoed in the dark, down the steps, into the basement. It added to the thrill.

Damian’s mother had the pickle jars in a back room in the same basement we were drinking in. There were 6 or 7 of us, four  boys and a couple of girls. I remember Suzie Garcia more than anyone, remember her like it was yesterday because of that vinegar smell that filled that room. It’s stayed with me. What a crazy, wild, powerful sense is smell! One whiff of vinegar and I can see her again, that wacky Suzie Garcia. She had medium-length curly black hair and didn’t have big breasts or anything that would make us teens drool. It was the way she walked, on her toes, a hippity hop step and the way she ignored people, me included if she got bored by the conversation. I had never kissed a girl before. Fast forward 40 years and me, in drunken desperation, I try to track her down on facebook and I’m a hypocrite because I have no facebook account but I browse for old high school mates like Suzie Garcia in the hope she might digitally display her life through endless photos, but come to think if it, I’m glad I don’t find her. I wouldn’t want to find out that she had a husband, two kids, a dog, and a big house and was happy, because the Suzie I met that vinegar night was not happy; she was wonderfully distant and independent and seeing her happy would ruin the statue I’ve built of Suzie, the muse she’s become.

Suzie talked a lot about the Brewers which was an instant turn on. I had never been to a game with a girl, only one movie with Sarah Mankowitz, at the Bay Theatre, a James Bond flick, Never Say Never Again, a big mistake because of all that Bond macho shit…..left me no chance to score, not even a kiss. But now there was Suzie and she knew more than Yount and Molitor and Cooper. She did some heavy obscure name dropping like Thad Bosley and Dwight Bernard and with every name rolling off her tongue, I wondered how I would kiss her. All of us drank the beer and then we headed outside into a midwestern humid, swimming through apple sauce summer night. I still love that kind of weather.

If a genie came to me now….and offered me one magic wish, I’d slip into a time machine and return to that walk we all took, drunk on Mickey’s Malt and I would hijack Suzie Garcia and we would walk to the local yard and hop a train heading west and we’d sing and drink more beer and sleep in those boxcars and be brave like only teenagers can be. We’d catch squirrels and rabbits or Suzie would catch them with traps she’d make with her bare hands, a skill passed on by her hunter father and I’d have a bottle of Tabasco sauce that could turn any marsupial into a delicacy. We would talk and really get to know each other and she would sometimes ignore me and that wouldn’t bother me in the least because I would have my own private space too and best of all we would make it all the way to Colorado and Denver and only then would we realize that freaking 40 years had passed and that Denver had a baseball team and they were the Rockies and they were scheduled to play our very Brewers that night and that night would be tonight!

The Brewers lost last night 3-2. I didn’t’ see the game. I was asleep but I see that Freddie Peralta struck out 10 batters which almost matched the first outing of his pro career which was also in Colorado. He struck out 13 that night. Baseball has all kinds of these wonderful connections, enough to distract a human mind for an entire lifetime not to mention inspiring endless conversations with fellow baseball junkies like that golden Suzie Garcia.

And Suzie and I would go to batting practice tonight and we’d catcall Joey Wiemer and he’d walk over and sign our program. Joey went 0 for 3 last night, sending his average closer to Mendoza at .218, but he’ll keep getting penciled into the lineup and not only because Garrett Mitchell is done for the season, but because Joey takes incredible routes to balls and is fast and has a tremendous arm and I call him the Wiemer Schnitzel! Am I repeating myself? That’s what Suzie would say and then turn away and jot notes in the scorecard. I would never know entirely what she was thinking and I would love it that way.


just another rose snagged by a fence

I’ve never thought of myself as a rose. I’m too mental, too self-absorbed, too self-loathing, and like everyone else – terminal while a rose reappears confident every spring, growing colorful pedals, ones people like to dunk their snouts in and smell. No one asks to smell me and I don’t take selfies either. I do, however, try and be appealing to other people, no doubt an inherited syndrome of wanting to please everyone, a fear of the void and life having no meaning, other than a few years and bones six feet under as opposed to a belief in god which I suffer from. It’s an active god too, one who I can communicate with, but like in the 70’s movie, Oh God, starring John Denver, George Burns, and Teri Garr (i love Teri Garr) God in the end disappears, goes on an African safari trip and his parting words are “You talk and I’ll listen,” the selfish bastard.

But me a fool, I keep believing and as a result, I tend to see things with the glass half-full, even pitch counts and the pitch clock, that things, good or bad, happen for a reason and that reason is to strengthen us so we can deal better with the down times and the inevitable end which probably won’t be filled with noble words and instead a great big OUCH, but to not become desperate and angry, an old curmudgeon. This is what made it so surprising for me Sunday to be in such a pissy mood as I walked along the Lachine Canal in Montreal. Maybe I’ve been a liar most of my life, blind to how truly awful this life really is.

The Lachine Canal in Montreal has something to do with China or the name does anyway. It has to do with Europeans hoping to reach China and fill up their lives with whatever they felt their lives lacked, no doubt spices so when they arrived here, they thought they had reached China and called it Lachine which in French means The China. Did they really think they had reached China? I shouldn’t judge. I have a shitty sense of direction too. But those Europeans and their geographic boners. I’d rather trust an Egyptian.

I walk along the Lachine canal every weekend and it doesn’t strike me as much of a canal. There are no boats lugging cargo containers. In fact, in spring and summer, the only boats along the narrow passage are stupid boats, the kind where half-naked men and half-naked women lay flat on their whoring backs and cruise slowly in the polluted, PCB infested water with the boat’s obnoxious loud motor ruining any chances for me to hear what my mind is concocting, no doubt a delusion of some sort and that same boat motor inspires a dog’s barking frenzy and romantic couples to hold hands because they don’t care about noises. Nothing can knock them off their junky romantic high. They’re in love or pretending to be and if the motor is not enough, then the crappy music blasting from the boat is. I hate it when people blast music from boats like I hated it in the 80’s when people blasted music from their boom boxes. Did I ask to hear that music? No. It’s noise pollution. God made headphones. Do boat owners care? Doesn’t seem so as they drink beer or cocktails or probably smoothies to stay in shape. I miss John Kruk. Thank God for Daniel Vogelbach. I’ve never lifted a weight in my life. The least the boat owners could do is toss beers to us poor folks walking along the path. I don’t understand the thrill of boats, maybe a huge cargo ship makes sense, the supply chain situation like the one that rescued Tom Hanks in that movie Caste Away or maybe sneaking onto a ship and hiding in the galley under the sink, going where? No where in particular, but cruise boats and motor boats? Speed boats? Obnoxious boats! Like cars that rev their engines for everyone to hear at stop signs. I never understood auto racing either. Stupid sport. Or I can appreciate the culture inside the INDY 500 track, all those people gathering and spreading love in their unique ways like a dead show I guess, but that sound, men macho muscle sound. Scarier than a drill sergeant high on crack, not that I’ve ever been in the military. I missed that boat. Thank God for Joe Strummer and the Clash and their wonderful song, “The Call Up.”

At the Lachine canal there are also groups of anonymous fishermen. They don’t wear name tags. I don’t talk to them. They’re there every time I walk along the dirty water, in winter too. I have no idea what they’re hoping to catch? Some new polluted species of fish? Or maybe Carp? I’ve seen that nasty monster of a fish in the overly romanticized Lachine Canal, seen them beside bobbing coke cans and used condoms. I don’t get fishing which depresses me because it seems to be so tied to baseball or at least baseball players like Ted Williams and reporters too, maybe none more than Red Smith. He grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin so he’s a big deal in my home state state along with Hall of Famer Al Simmons and Harvey Kuenn and not to be out done, side armer Pat Neshek from Madison. But Red Smith had a cottage somewhere in Wisconsin and he loved to fish. I guess I get the potential peace involved in the pastime or sport or whatever anglers like to call it, like some zen monk meditating on a hill, but I have no inner peace, not this month or year or life anyway and it makes me jealous. I wish I could sit in a canoe and do nothing for 12 hours except stare at the water and drink beer or brandy. But I hate the movement of water. It leaves me at a disadvantage because the earth is covered by like 80 percent water or whatever, right? Fine by me. I’m not gonna live forever so I’ll spend my few days on landy, tumbleweed earth and take in whatever miracles I can find, probably not too many today.

But speaking of miracles, Ohtani hit a long homerun to centerfield against the Brewers on Sunday and he doesn’t even extend his front foot during the swing. He just curls it and still generates all that power. Ohtani is one of these miracles and so is Trout, not the fish, but the man, the player, the living legend, the future HOF’er and yet, I take it for granted he walks amongst us or flashes across the TV or lap tap or I-phone screen. I start thinking about Easter Sunday 1987 and the Brewers walk off win and how Rob Deer was like a god to me. Stupid nostalgia while Trout and Ohtani are alive and that should be enough reason for me to bow down like a mindless believer, grateful to be alive, but instead I complain, but then it happens or it happened Sunday, on the same day Ohtani went deep, Trout went 0 for 4 and struck out three times, the last time looking really fooled on an out of the strike zone slider by none other than the Brewers Tyson Miller. Who? Exactly. Heroes get tricked by no names too. And maybe I’m cruel but that’s reassuring to know that Trout is sometimes like the rest of us. He sucks. The Brewers got shut out 0-3, but they won the series against the Angels and now it’s on to Coors Field. My favorite Brewer, Joey Wiemer, has his batting average up to .226.


buffalo wings, Corbin Burnes, and a possible epitaph

The grocery store I typically shop at is part of a chain of stores with the same name – Metro. It has been under renovation. I was curious why. A decision handed down from headquarters? Or one made by the specific branch? Was it like city-states? Could they do what they wanted without consulting the leaders of their respective empires? Ancient history is not my specialty so I turned my attention to mlb websites, if a team, for example, could design their own site and not follow the same format as all other teams. This is what I was thinking while roaming the new layout at the grocery store, not a great idea, because the potatoes were no longer beside the fish display. I needed to focus. It was like shopping in a where’s Waldo adventure.

I eventually found the potatoes and en route, noticed something I hadn’t seen before and I had no one to blame but myself. I hadn’t combed the store studying all it had to offer and so I had never seen the freezer filled with frozen vegetables which didn’t bother me at all because I don’t like frozen vegetables, but there was something beside them that inspired questions. There were packages of Buffalo Wings. I’m not one for philosophy, but I admire the way philosophy is written – wordy and confusing which I take personally as a reminder that I lack the brain power to understand what the hell people like Spinoza and other philosophers are talking about, but in this instance, of seeing Buffalo Wings, I had to ask the question – why? The latent philosopher in me had been aroused. Why are they called Buffalo Wings? Buffalo don’t have wings. Buffalo don’t fly. I know this because I’ve seen buffalo roaming. It was a few years ago. I saw them at a park within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

I was in the Bay Area visiting my older brother. (He has been living in Oakland for almost 40 years) While I was there, I decided to ride the local subway called BART which stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. I wanted to visit the old hippy scene at Haight and Asbury so I mapped out my subway and bus and walking route from Oakland to San Francisco and made it to the hippy zone and there were some old hippies there and they told me that the real hippy scene was buried in Golden Gate Park in 1966 and that was news to me and all in all, it was a great cultural experience and eventually I made my way to that park, to Golden Gate Park and walked and walked and walked some more which is how I stumbled on these buffalo. It was a great and surprising discovery.

It was exciting to see a park dedicated to these buffalo. I had read a little bit about them, not much, but a little, about how important they were to Plains Indian’s culture and how the white settlers knew that if they destroyed the buffalo, they would succeed in destroying their culture, maybe like the Nazis burning the Jew’s Torah/old testament. Get rid of the buffalo, get rid of the Torah and the cultures would eventually disintegrate which reminds me of something I recently learned about – eugenics and the search of the so called perfect gene which makes no sense to me in that I believe in spices, in so many different kinds of spices, in all kinds of Indians, in all kinds of Jews, in blue-eyed people, brown-eyed, tall, small, men with pockmarks on their faces, midgets, monsters, cultures or religions that believe in god and heaven and other that don’t, girls who wear flowers in their hair and say hello to strangers and men who drive around in hearses with megaphones attached to the top preaching destruction and doom. Spices spices spices. Anyway, all this to say that the buffalo in Golden Gate Park did not have wings and did not fly.

I asked my girlfriend about this name – buffalo wings; I asked her why since they were just chicken wings and she didn’t answer; she was busy deciding on whether or not to buy ice cream which she didn’t buy, instead choosing to buy a second bag of oranges, a strange replacement for ice cream, but I didn’t bother asking her why, preferring to not know which got me excited to head outside and discover new things which is exactly what happened when my girlfriend asked me to help her remove windows so she could clean them, front and back, something new, something I never do at my apartment. I was happy to help her. And the air was great….winter ending and seasons changing and yet, it’s almost impossible to notice, to really notice, a bulb on a branch exploding into a green leaf like when does that exact moment happen? It’s like noticing our mood swings. It’ all so gradual or subtle, but then it’s there or there we are in a new place and this inspires memories of Greg Maddux and what he did when he was pitching for the Braves, how he would impose amnesia on himself after allowing a home run, to forget about the previous matter, the previous batter, to move onto the next one, to forget, to believe that he might make the right pitch to the next batter. It was all just hope and blind faith. I mean there was a chance that the law of averages would not return and Maddux would throw one gopher pitch after another, but he didn’t.

The Brewers Corbin Burnes applied a similar self-imposed amnesia on himself too, a few weeks ago. After suffering two bad starts to begin the season, uncharacteristically walking five batters in nine innings, allowing two homers, 11 hits, 10 earned runs, he said something to the effect of “not focusing on the negative of what’s already passed, to not go that route” and he’s been good, if not great ever since saying that, back to his Cy Young self, but this isn’t to say that it’s that easy, like some magic incantation, that tomorrow will be horror-free if you forget about yesterday’s terror.

Steve Blass serves as a potent reminder that it sometimes doesn’t work. There’s even a syndrome named after him, the sudden attack of “Holy crap, I can no longe throw strikes” and the damn lack of control never went away, derailed his good career, even after hypnosis, psychiatrists and god knows what else, but Blass went on to have a nice broadcasting stint with the Pirates. He endured the horrible changes that confronted him, “the syndrome” and carved a new path and the suddenness of Blass’s lack of control kind of reminds me of the sudden renovations at the grocery store, at first shocking and unsettling, but then, slowly, I had no choice, but to adjust because some things are too big to try and resist and when I stopped resisting, I noticed the buffalo wings and after writing about them here, I might spice my life up and try some.

I can see it now – couch, buffalo wings, beer, and Corbin Burnes.

The Brewers are 18-9, one and half games behind the 20-8 Pirates who are the surprise of the year so far and apparently in a state of amnesia over last year’s 62-100 season…..Make notice to self for possible epitaph – “forever trying to forget about yesterday’s triumph or turmoil. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.”


stumbling into solstice

The man sitting inside the tobacco kiosk seldom smiled. The kiosk offered just enough room to swivel around and pluck whatever his customers asked for”…..cigars, cigarettes, kodiak tins, cloves, tiparillos. He had no hair. He always spoke baritone, “what can I get for you?” …..pleasant enough to not creep out parents who were eager to report him because of the pockmarks on his face and the way he stared at their 16-year old boys and girls. But he wasn’t doing anything forbidden. The legal smoking age in Saddick County was 14 on account of there being so many “back rooms” where those aware of the monster within gathered and gambled and smoked…..There was no Little League or Boy Scouts in town so kids played poker. Kids smoked. And with mortgage payments and the drudge of 9-5 at the Yield Plastics Plant, parents started smoking too.

This man was the only tobacco dealer in town, an occupation handed down for generations, the Turnicut tobacco family. He, like his grandmother and great grandfather and so on backwards to the launch of the very first plantation, devoted their entire life to tobacco, dealing out the delights to eager teenagers, ladies with lipstick, and slow walking elders with wide lapel suit jackets.

On a sign outside the kiosk, right under a sharpy doodle of a cigar, in small cursive writing, it said – “we sell confectionary too.” I had no idea what the word meant. I was there for the Ducado filter-less imports from Spain, but I liked that word confectionary. It had me playing word division and association. Got me thinking about confession and defection and that reminded me of the Spanish Catholic church and the colonization of Cuba and the defection of Cuban born players and that had me wondering if Luis Tiant defected, but my wonder didn’t last long. I closed my eyes and slipped into a little reverie of Tiant corkscrewing 180 degree around wind ups. I had only seen Tiant on old videos, but that motion stuck with me. I impersonated him outside the kiosk. I was never sure if the tobacco man knew who I was impersonating?

And then he said the words to me one day.

“Make yourself a solstitial personality.”

And when I shrugged my shoulders, he added in a whisper, “one day it might be Hendrix and the next day the Koran.”

I knew about Hendrix and had heard about the Koran, about the inner war of Jihad, that fight against one’s animal nature, but I liked birds, especially hawks, the way they soared so effortlessly, hardly ever flapping their wings. I wanted to be like them so I had no interest in fighting with my animal nature. I wanted to arouse it even more and then one day I might fly or wrestle a buffalo to the ground with my naked hands and kill it peacefully and say thank you and then cook it up at a campfire of my own making for my brothers, if I only had brothers, if I only knew how to make a fire.

And these thoughts of fire reminded me of Hendrix playing the electric guitar with his teeth and also a Muslim Sufi spinning dervish dance and I felt confused, but it struck a cord with me like the humble, hardworking strategy of a suicide squeeze and the arrogant pompous homerun trot, both of them sharing the same planet and that’s when the tobacco man’s words started to make a grain of sand sense to me, two solstices, to make myself a solstitial personality. To sense the incoming storm and know when to adjust the sails and change, adapt, and what not.

The Brewers, like all teams have suffered early season injuries. Centerfielder Garrett Mitchell went down with what they’re saying is a season ending shoulder injury/surgery. And this means the Brewers have to adjust. They have to activate a new solstice or maybe I’m stretching this metaphor too far? Or maybe it doesn’t work at all? In any case, Mitchell’s injury gives my favorite Brewer a great opportunity. It’s Joey Wiemer – 6’4″, 220 big with a mammoth, wild swing and yet totally under control, able to lay off sliders low and away and also freak in the field…super fast and takes great routes to balls and a missile for an arm in right field and now center field since Mitchell went down.

And what does all this have to do with tobacco man? Nothing except that I just got back from Milwaukee. I was visiting my mom and dad and my dad gave me a cigar.


dawn of the new Brewer

Today was not like any other day, not because of a meteor shower or a man running naked up and down the steps of city hall. It was different because I spotted a crooked old lady, leaning to the right, walking slowly along the cement, holding an eggplant in each hand, her locomotion a thing of the past, but I bet there was a time when she skipped and jumped rope and smoked her first cigarette behind Terri’s Italian emporium. We passed each other. I nodded. She didn’t see me. She was busy, focused on her next step. God, life is weird. I remember when summer vacation felt like forever and now the days are slow, but the weeks are fast and the months and years even faster. I think I might return to McDonald’s and drink coffee and stare at strangers and if I’m lucky strike up conversations and get people high because I feel high because it’s been a while since three promising rookies cracked the Brewers lineup. it’s been since the early 2000’s with Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, and Prince Fielder and now it’s Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang, Joey Weimer and spring really is the time for fracas and new beginnings and bulbs on branches ready to burst into green spiders and then leaves and dancing in the breeze is my determination to spend more time outside this spring and summer is enough to get me walking to the local survival store and buy a brew and take it to a secret place and drink it under the sky.


awakened by Tekakwitha!

Ask Terence Fishman to name an offensive or defensive lineman and he’d pound the rail, shake his head, and call out to the bartender – “whisky shots!” He knew a few linebackers, a couple of safeties, plenty of quarterbacks, punters, field goal kickers, running backs, and receivers, but no linemen, not a one.

The bartender related to that feeling of not knowing. There was a time he had no idea what a Harvey Wallbanger was. He poured us three nice glasses, “on the house.” We clinked and drank.

“You know any middle relievers?” I asked.

Timmy pounded the rail again and his not knowing aroused the bartender’s sympathy a second time. We were rewarded with another round of whiskies.

“It’s nonsense like that,” mumbled Terence.

“Like what?” I asked

“That gets us into a nighttime of drinking.”

The third member of our trio slipped off off his bar stool and danced in place.

“Just pass me the pitcher please,” sang Frank, “and then another.”

We were in for a good night or we wouldn’t know the difference in a few drinks. But a few things were certain. There’d be nine ball played in the corner, beside the jukebox, and someone would inevitably play Ramon Ayala and that old dancing polka couple would arrive. It was after all, Saturday night. They hadn’t missed one in months and god could they dance. Musta been in their 70’s. We never asked. They never told. They came to dance. And there would probably be some spontaneous young lovers getting into each other’s pants and there would be us, sharing wretch at the rail, discussing the ban on shifts and the pitch clock and then like a million other nights, the lights would go on and we’d shuffle and sway back to Terence’s apartment complex, on the second floor, in the back, overlooking the alley, sipping cheap champagne and we’d feel the breeze for a change. Bars did that to us. Some strange collective madness calmed our minds. Took us out of ourselves.

Terence would get out his fishing pole and we’d attach a Miller beer to the line and dangle it down to the street and sometimes a “spurler” as Terence called them, someone from a rival bar, would stumble by and be in for a surprise or so they thought, a free beer, but Terence would wait for them to reach for the can and then he’d lift up the line, out of their reach and then he’d drop it again and back and forth and up and down, torture, but he eventually let them have the beer, on some nights anyway.

We’d talk about the instruments colonizers smuggled into new countries and how maybe that’s how the accordion thrives in Mexican Polka music. Frank would sing in Spanish, something about how time takes away your physical beauty; better to look for love. We’d go back inside and dance around and then sit down. Another bottle would be opened. Once again we’d discuss the ban on shifts and the pitch clock and we’d all wish we could beam up a stadium organ player during an imaginary rain delay. We’d dance some more. The downstairs neighbor would pound his ceiling which would be our floor. We’d quiet down, pass out at different times, me on the couch, Terence on the floor, and Frank on a chair. We’d awake to the sound of Terence reciting all the Indian princesses that had loved him over the years, their names and the tribes they came from.

“Kateri Tekakwitha!” he’d yell. “The Algonquin-Mohawk. I helped her get sainted!”

I guess he was still pissed about not knowing any linemen or middle relievers.


surviving strike three

Damon lived a few houses south of us, on the other side of the street. 6136 was the address. We never talked, not until he mounted what looked like a skeleton on his leather jacket shoulder. Then I suddenly wanted to know him and so I did whatever any 13-year-old kid would do; I struck up a conversation, my curiosity fueling my social bravery. He told me he had a cat and she killed mice and would leave the skeleton on their back porch, as a token of its appreciation for taking care of it and that he mounted the skeleton on his shoulder in appreciation of his cat. I liked that.

We talked about music. He had an older brother named Mitchel who had a record collection that snaked around his room. We immediately liked the Clash and the Psychedelic Furs. It was our entry point into the massive family tree of music. We used to hang out in his basement and listen to records. We cut our hair off with a sewing sheers. We drank Port Wine, three dollars a bottle. Mitchel bought it for us. We kicked over garbage cans and fences and collected expired candy and chips from a trash bin behind the 7/11.

It sucked when Damon went away to summer camp. It was a Jesus, religious camp. Weird because he wasn’t the last bit religious. In fact, he used to mock his mom when she would barge in on us, early in the morning sleeping off a port wine night and say, “Today is the day the lord has made.” Damon would roll over and tell her, “Yeh, but he’s gonna make tomorrow too so let us sleep.”

He went because of a girl – Sandra Boyce. I knew her. She had black hair. She walked pigeon-toed and liked music too, comic books, cars, even baseball. She loved the Cubs and the White Sox because her father had moved to Chicago after the divorce and took care of her every summer so they would go to a lot of games. I could understand how Damon got smitten or whatever by her. Sandra invited a bunch of us over to watch boxing matches on pay per view tv and she didn’t even make us pay! Her mom paid. But to follow a girl to a Jesus freak camp? It struck me as kind of desperate. I was jealous.

Anyway, he sent me a few postcards, funny ones in his patented sarcasm, “Had 20 cents to waste so I though I’d send you this card.” The summer went slow, really slow. I was bored and it was 1981 so there was no baseball in July. The strike was on. I remember how stupid or cruel it all seemed, that word, “strike.” I had grown fond of the Brewers Rollie Fingers knack for throwing strikes that first half of the 1981 season and now that word STRIKE. I didn’t even want to play little league anymore.

But like a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, all things, good or bad, come to an end and so the baseball strike ended and Damon came home from Jesus camp and he had changed, not physically; he still had those bowl cut bangs and long hair in the back and still had the mice skeleton mounted on his leather jacket shoulder, but he was smiling a hell of a lot more and that laugh of his. It was loud and lasted a long time. I told him it sounded fake and he said I was right, that it was fake, that he was faking it until making it. That was his new expression – “Fake it to you make it”

Damon wound up hosting a radio show on the far left side of the FM dial. We lost touch. I wonder if he married Sandra Boyce or if he goes to church? I doubt it. But I’m glad I met him, glad he went to Jesus camp and than came home and I’m glad there was a baseball strike and then an end to the strike. It instilled in me hope that tomorrow might be better.


on the way to Woodstock

I wasn’t alive in the spring of 1969 but if I was, I like to think I woulda been 17 and woulda had a big crush on a girl with olive-colored skin, black hair and dark eyes, so dark that I could see the world reflected in them except at night. Then it would be downright spooky and my crush on her would grow. She would lead me all over town in say Brooklyn. Yeh, I would be living in Brooklyn, not too far from the Greenwood cemetery. And I would know that Henry Chadwick was buried there and I would know that Chadwick created the first baseball box score and that he questioned the thinking that lots of errors equaled “bad fielder” because it might just be a case of a defender having greater range, getting to more balls = more chances = more errors. I wouldn’t be 100 percent sure of all this because I would have overheard it from a conversation a bunch of old men with hats would have been having at the local pharmacy.

I would follow my beady-eyed babe over the black wrought iron gates of Greenwood cemetery in the hopes of a kiss. It would be amazing to just clear the spiky tops of the fence, and I would make it and she would hold my hand and then let go and I would run after her and she would hold my hand again and then run away again. I would eventually get tired and pass out and when I woke up she would be gone. But I would have a brother and we would be really close, really different, but really close. He would be a weed smoker and the occasional dropper of LSD and he would go see bands and he would have a massive music collection and I would be a baseball card collector and I would like astronomy and baseball and that would be about it. I would have a lot of friends, but not many dreams other than liking it when winter was over and spring came and baseball would be starting again. I would go to a lot of Mets and Yankees games with my friends. I would like the Mets better, but I would also like to see American League teams and their players and anyway the subway and bus reached both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium so I would go to both. And I would like 1969 because there would be talk of men going to the moon and there would be four new teams in baseball and they would be all over North America – Montreal, Seattle, Kansas City, and San Diego. And at some point I would get wind that Jim Bouton would be pitching for the Pilots in Seattle and that he had been assigned a task – to chronicle his 1969 season and I would think that was really cool because his chronicle would be like a diary and that would be like gratitude for living, an appreciation of every day, good or bad, drunk or sober, proof of a life lived, a sort of a thank you note to God or whoever. I would want Bouton’s Pilot’s baseball card, but there would be a problem. Topps would issue its cards in spring, but they would be for the previous season so the 1969 set would be about the 1968 players. There would be no Jim Bouton Pilot’s card that year, but it was right about that time that my brother would invite me to some concert in upstate New York. He would say things like, “You gotta go and don’t worry, I know exactly how to prepare you for the event.”

He would sit me down and hand me a small piece of cardboard, much smaller than a baseball card, much much smaller, and he would tell me that it was LSD and that I should put it on my tongue. He promised that it would make me want to hear music, to go and see live music. I would be kind of innocent and gullible, but it would be my brother and I would trust him. Nothing would happen at first, but then I would start noticing things that were always there, but they would be different like the colored shapes of the floor tiles and the turquoise colored ceiling. There would be rainbow colors around the light and my brother would put on an album and it would be Canned Heat and he would tell me about the origins of the name canned heat and we would be like holy crap – “How could anyone drink that!” and I would get to thinking that maybe there was a little magic in all of this and that maybe I should go with my brother to this music concert he called Woodstock which would be the town where the concert would be and maybe it was the LSD talking, but I would wonder and then really believe that there would be a Topps baseball card maker at Woodstock and that he would be making cards from the back of his VW bus, that all the players who would be playing in that 1969 season would have cards including Jim Bouton on the Pilots!

We would hitchhike, my brother and I from Brooklyn to Woodstock and along the way we would eat some more of these LSD cardboard tabs and I would start thinking about time being made up, about it being man made and that all that mattered was the sun and moon, night and day and I would feel even more excited about there being four more teams in baseball and when we would get to Woodstock, I would meet an old man with a radio, an AM transistor, and he would tell me that the Pilots were playing the Orioles in Seattle that weekend and I would know that and he would offer to drive us to Baltimore, that he had a Dodge Dart and we would listen to the game on the radio in Baltimore in his one bedroom apartment and it wouldn’t feel that weird or creepy because it would be Woodstock and I would trust everyone. And when I would say yes, he would say, “Maybe Bouton would pitch.” And it would feel so bizarre and magical that this old man would say such Bouton things, like how would he know that I had come to Woodstock to find some Bouton baseball card magic, but it would be really happening so I would tell my brother and thank him and he would understand because he would be a great brother and he would know things and we would get to Baltimore, me and this old man, on Saturday and the magic would just be starting because Bouton would pitch in Saturday’s, August 16th game and yeh, the Pilots would lose 16-3 and yeh, Bouton would give up three earned runs in two innings, but I would have heard Bouton’s name said over and over and I would imagine what he might do later that night and how he would paint the experience with words in his soon to be book and I would be excited about one day reading it. I would not remember how I got back home to Brooklyn, but when I would get there I would be more sure than ever that I would get that dark eyed girl to kiss me and I would still not know her name.