Thursday, May 27, 2010

Top 20 Fictional Sports Figures

After last night’s atrocious Game 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, it is only fitting that we lighten the mood with a sports headline as well as an absolutely ridiculous post about the Top 20 Film Sports Figures of All-Time.  This list will leave you laughing all the way through this Memorial Day Weekend (Hint: Rick Vaughn is not on it).  Let’s jump right into it shall we?

20.  Thornton Mellon (Rodney Dangerfield)
– “Back to School”: On the surface (no pun intended) a diver may not seem like an obvious choice for one of the Top 20 Film Sports Figures of All-Time. However, you have to take into account that in 1986, Thornton Mellon was well past his prime diving age when he perfected the “Triple Lindy” at the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  In 1986, Thornton Mellon was a 60ish businessman who had developed a thriving business of clothing stores for large men called “Tall & Fat,” and had no need to relive his glory days.  However, at the behest of Coach Turnbull of the Grand Lakes Diving Team, Thornton comes out of retirement to perform his legendary dive and help the diving team win the big meet.  Thornton executed the Triple Lindy (a dive that consists of the diver jumping from the high dive onto the spring-loaded middle dive, sideways onto a slightly lower spring-loaded diving board specially installed for the dive, where you then jump back to the middle board, do a flip and then spring off the board and finish the dive) to perfection – he even included his armpit fart warm-ups.  You may have heard of George Forman coming back to box at an old age, but he had nothing on Thornton Mellon.

19. Daniel Russo (Ralph Macchio) – “The Karate Kid”: Now, you may say that karate is not a sport, that it is a martial art and maybe you are right.  However, one has to take into account the extreme athletic achievements of Daniel Russo.  First, he only knew about karate from books he read at the YMCA.  Next, he only used the lunch-pail training techniques of Mister Miyagi (Wax on, Wax off, that’s called child labor disguised as training) and was able to take on the entire Cobra Kai dojo in the All Valley Karate Tournament and win the trophy over high school powerhouse Johnny Lawrence after receiving a hobbling knee injury.  If you take into account all of the beatings that Russo received from the Cobra Kai as well as from Chozen and his gang in Okinawa during Karate Kid II, you have to be pretty impressed at the kid’s resiliency. He showed signs of being a late-80’s Rocky Balboa, but for karate.  However, Russo fell on harder times as he had an affinity for the bottle and for salted Italian meats and only appeared as a shadow of himself, although still successful, in Karate Kid III.  We can always wonder what would have been.

18. Matthew/Martha (Jonathan Brandis) – “Ladybugs”
: We are sticking with teenage heroes here, and although Matthew may not have been as tough as Daniel Russo, he a) competed in a legitimate sport and 2) was a two gender athlete and first of all most likely went to Santa Clara, Michigan, North Carolina or UCLA on a college scholarship and may have been an NCAA champion at some point during the 1990’s had his story received the same lengthy scope as the saga of Daniel Russo aka The Karate Kid.  However, from what we have seen of Matthew in “Ladybugs” was that even weighed down by the burden of the blonde wig that transformed him into Martha, he was still a prolific scorer, who, like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, begrudgingly excelled as a passer as well. Some of Matthew’s moves are incendiary as he cuts through the feminine midfield of some of his opponents, much like he would be cutting through the feminine defense of the Duke Blue Devils soccer team at the college level.  Matthew (as Martha) elevated the play of the girls around him.  He even overcame the lackluster coaching of his stepfather Chester (Rodney Dangerfield) and his assistant coach (played by Jackee). Although much of Matthew’s ranking comes on potential as a soccer prospect, this ranking feels secure.

17. Forest Gump (Tom Hanks) – “Forrest Gump”
:  Due to the fact that Gump led such an eventful and overall prolific life, it is easy to overlook the fact that he was a two sport athlete – football and ping pong. Gump received a scholarship to the University of Alabama where he played under the legendary coach “Bear” Bryant.  Gump went to college back when it was much more frequent for home-state boys to go the to the State University.  If Gump were playing now, he would most likely have gone to Florida or USC.  Gump was a terrific kick-returner due to exceptional speed.  He did lack a sense of depth and direction, but luckily, he was coached by one of the best. His prowess as a runner was so great that he even predated Bo Jackson’s running through the end zone and into the entrance tunnel play.  Gump also excelled at ping-pong, which many may not consider a sport, but its worldwide attention definitely deserves merit.  Gump went to China to defend the honor of America in ping-pong and succeeded.  He was so good that there was even a marketing campaign designed around him featuring customized ping-pong paddles and even a life-size cardboard cutout.  You can’t deny a life-size cardboard cutout.  Although Gump went on to meet John Lennon, become a millionaire, help Lieutenant Dan find God, marry Jenny and have a son, one cannot overlook his athletic accomplishments.

16. Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) – “The Waterboy”: We will be seeing a lot of the Sandman on this list, but he first ranks in here with the Bayou Bonecrusher known as Bobby Boucher.  Although sharing the same low intellect and sensitivity as Forest Gump, when inspired, Boucher’s athleticism went beyond the finesse of the kick return – it featured some of the fiercest tackles and hits known to the game of football.  Boucher was naturally meek before he was able to gain the correct game time mentality of envisioning his enemies mocking him on the other side of the line of scrimmage in order to inflict serious damage on the opponent. Boucher was such a prolific defensive player that in the 1998 Bourbon Bowl, Coach Red Beaulieu had to implement the Boucher Rules, which consisted of his offense kneeling the ball on every possession in order to try to run out the clock and prevent Boucher from affecting the game.  However, Coach Klein soon learned that he could scheme Boucher on offense, making him a two-way player. Boucher led the South Central Louisiana State Mud Dogs to a stunning comeback in order to win the 1998 Bourbon Bowl. Although not documented in the film, Boucher was named to the NCAA All American Team after that season. Boucher could have taken the NFL by storm and perhaps surpassed LT as the greatest linebacker that ever played.  There were questions about his age (he was 30 years in his breakout freshman season), but we will never know what would have happened. Instead, he decided to become a teacher and marry Vicki Vallencourt.

15. The 1994 Anaheim Angels Outfield – “Angels in the Outfield”: Danny Hemmerling (Adrien Brody), Ben Williams (Matthew McConaughey) and Ray Mitchell (Stoney Jackson) were an outfield by committee and up until the 1994 season (remember this is fictional, there was no strike shortened season) lacked confidence.  However, although their play was elevated by angels, during that 1994 season each one gained confidence in their abilities as the season rolled along, helping the Angels to make the postseason in a legendary playoff game where Mel Clark (Tony Danza) got much of the headlines for his gutsy pitching performance. Although overshadowed in that game, Williams made the 1994 All-Star team as a reserve and then again in 1996 and 1997, when all three Angels were in the All-Star outfield. Hemmerling finished second in steals in 1996 and won a Gold Glove and made the All-Star Team in 1997.  Mitchell was slightly less accomplished although he finished 5th in batting percentage in 1995 and hit over 100 RBIs in 1997.  Even though their play was enhanced (albeit by angels from heaven and not human growth hormones) these three solid MLB players deserve to be on the list.

14. Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) – “Happy Gilmore”
: For some, Gilmore may count as a two-sport athlete, but his lackluster attempts a hockey do not factor in here. This may be too high of a rating, but I tend to value those players who burn brightly and who feature a large quantity of potential to keep you thinking after the credits roll.  Gilmore could hit a golf ball a ton, however his short game was lacking.  With the tutelage of Chubbs (Carl Weathers), a mini golf course, and a putter shaped like a hockey stick, Gilmore is able to go to his “happy place” and control his short game in order to win the Masters over Shooter McGavin.  Gilmore made quite a bit of money on the pro tour, enough to buy back his grandmother’s house from IRS, so we do not know if he continued on the tour in order to rack up a few more green jackets as well as other major championships.  We do know that he had a terrific chance to do so and that he changed the sport of golf perhaps more than Tiger Woods did. Although, we can never know if the same fate would have befallen Happy that has recently befallen Tiger.  However, with a girlfriend like Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen) you shouldn’t need Orlando area cougars.  But the same could have been said about Elin Woods.

13. Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) – “Rookie of the Year”
: Rowengartner loses points in my book due to the fact that the prowess of his pitching arm was due to a freak accident that bordered on magic.  It is also because he was only a dominant pitcher for about half of the 1993 season and only through the NLCS, when his arm healed and he lost his magic ability to throw almost 110 miles per hour.  However, you have to like Henry’s mental toughness.  He fought off an overbearing agent and a corrupt front office (Dan Hedaya) that was trying to trade him to the Yankees, jealous friends, and losing his powers and brought the Cubs to the World Series.  Rowengartner’s ability to pull off the hidden ball trick, the chicken trick, and to fool Heddo (pronounced by John Candy as “potato”) with the underhand lob to win the pennant, was truly masterful once his favorite pitch had disappeared.  Some of our finest MLB pitchers could learn a thing or two from Rowengartner about mental toughness.  The Chicago Cubs are a tortured franchise and in his one year of glory,  twelve year old Henry Rowengartner brought them a World Series Championship.  We can always dream.

12. Lou Collins (Timothy Busfield) – “Little Big League”: This is a bit of a sentimental pick because this is my favorite sports movie and because it features an in his prime Ken Griffey Junior as the bad guy who actually spoils the day.  Anyway, Lou Collins did not have a flashy career like Henry Rowengartner.  He played solid first base made the 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993 All Star Teams and won a Gold Glove in 1990.  He was loyal to the twin cities and Thomas Heywood before he died.  When Thomas’ grandson, Billy, took over the team after he died, Lou knew that he was Billy’s favorite player so he began to press a little bit during the 1994 season when the change in ownership through off the team dynamics. Lou was also distracted by Billy’s mom, Jenny Heywood, who he had always had a crush on.  Lou and Billy butted heads over whether or not Lou could date Jenny, with Billy actually benching Lou for a period of time.  However, when the Twins made a late season run behind Billy’s knowledge of the game and surprising managerial skills for a twelve/thirteen year old, Lou was back in the lineup.  The Twins faced off against the Mariners in thrilling one game playoff.  Lou had a solid game and was in position to win it for the Twins when he was up to bat in the bottom of the 9th.  Lou got behind a lackluster pitch from a tired Randy Johnson who had pitched all nine innings and sent the ball flying into left center, however Griffey was roaming the outfield with his grace and excellence and skied up against the wall to make an insane catch and end the Twins’ postseason dreams.  Lou never got to the World Series in his career, but he did get to marry Jenny Heywood and have Billy Heywood as a stepson.  Not bad, Lou. Not bad.

11. Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) – “Mighty Ducks”: The Legend of Gordon Bombay looms large. It even looms over Top Chef competitors like, Jeff, from Top Chef New York, who was the Gordon Bombay of the 2000’s.  Bombay could have gone pro, if it wasn’t for a knee injury he sustained after a vicious slash from Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson.  Bombay was a gifted goal scorer and playmaker.  He did go on to get a law degree and was successful as a corporate lawyer, as well as become the coach of the international sensation known as the Mighty Ducks, and finish his career as a coach in the NHL; we will always wonder what kind of records Bombay could have broken. Those that saw him play in college and in the Youth World Games only rave about what would have happened if he could have gone up against Gretsky, Lemeiuex or Messier.  He’ll always have that hair.

10. Jack Parkman (David Keith) – “Major League II”: This is another sentimental favorite because this is my favorite Major League movie of all time.  Parkman was one of the central antagonists in Major League II.  An All-Star cleanup hitter for the White Sox during the 1989 season, he was a major free agent pickup for the Indians heading into the 1990 season (although it seemed like and looked like there was an extra long off-season that year).  However, as it was well documented, financial issues, chemistry, and front office blunders quickly threw the 1990 season off for the Indians and Cleveland had to trade Parkman (who was having another All-Star season) back to the White Sox. Parkman eventually met back up with the Indians in the 1990 ALCS after another stunning late season surge by The Tribe.  Parkman did his little shuffle that made all the women in Cleveland sick and helped lead the White Sox from a 3-0 deficit to tie the series at 3-3.  In Game 7, Parkman looked to put the White Sox back in the World Series with a home run.  However, he was fooled by Willie Mays Hayes’ jumping slide when he stole home and was the victim of “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn’s resurgence as the dominant closer in the game in the ninth inning when he struck out swinging.  Parkman was not a likeable guy, but he could hit the ball a ton.  Plus he had a great bad guy five o’clock shadow.

9. Paul “Wrecking” Crue (Adam Sandler) – “The Longest Yard”: Crue was also played by Burt Reynolds, but we remember the Sandman’s version better; not just because of dumb jokes like Cheeseburger Charlie putting the Archie comic on Caretaker’s grave, but because of the toughness of the modern Crue.  Paul “Wrecking” Crue was a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP who went to jail because of betting on football.  In jail, he modified his game to a more extreme Arena Football style in helping to lead the Inmates over the Guards.  Crue was often criticized for his mental toughness.  He had the physical gifts to make him a Heisman winner and an NFL MVP, but many questioned if he wanted it enough to win a Super Bowl.  Crue was released from prison after betting the  warden during the Inmates vs. Guards game and returned to the NFL.  We do not know if he ever excelled at the same level as he did during his pre-incarceration period, but I believe he ended up as a second string quarterback on talented team with a young quarterback (Green Bay Packers or Atlanta Falcons) who got injured during the stretch run of the season, which jeopardized the team’s playoff hopes. However, Crue showed his old form and led the team to  the Super Bowl where the young quarterback got the start and led the team to a unified victory in a 17-10 win over the Miami Dolphins.  Crue got his ring, but as a part of the team.  That’s the way I see it happening anyway.

8. Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) – “Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV”: A modern day Muhammad Ali, Creed was all braggadocio, dancing and damaging hits. He was one of the longest reigning heavyweight champions of the world before he ran into Rocky Balboa. Although Creed was able to beat Balboa in their first fight by decision, he was not so lucky their rematch.  Creed was on the decline in those years and did not have the same speed and strength as he did earlier in his career.  However, Creed proved that he still had a great boxing I.Q. as he helped Rocky Balboa regain the heavyweight championship from Clubber Lang after the two exchanged the belt in 1983.  Training with Balboa gave Creed thoughts that he still had something left in the tank and when Ivan Drago came to America from Russia in 1987, a way over the hill Creed foolishly saw an attempt to get back into the public spotlight, which was always his vice. What resulted was a bloodbath that is too violent to repeat. But it was the end of Creed.  He died in the ring, which was where he would have wanted to die – either there or on the beach with Rocky maybe, there was something very homoerotic about Rocky III.  Creed was passionate about the game of boxing; he never gave up and could almost match Rocky Balboa’s legendary toughness.  He was a legendary champion who thought he could hold America’s starry eyes in his fists.

7. Neon and Butch McRae (Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway) – “Blue Chips”: Neon and Butch McRae were classic examples of the cheating in recruiting that was running rampant in the NCAA during the 1990’s.  Both Neon and Butch were underachieving students, but they were tremendous basketball players and Coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) of Coastal University wanted to bring them to his team in order to regain the glory of the program’s past.  However, once Coach Bell and Coastal were busted for providing the players with money illegally, both Neon and Butch had to transfer.  They each ended up in the NBA and had illustrious careers.  After three seasons in Phoenix, Butch was traded to Orlando and teamed up with Neon. In Orlando, the reunited friends captured three NBA Championships and multiple All-Star Team appearances.  Neon was voted MVP of the NBA in 1999, while Butch led the league in assists in 1996, 1998 and 1999.  Although they were frequently questioned for the events that went on at Coastal, the two were able to overcome their past and embrace being two of the biggest stars in the NBA.

6.  Hank Mertle (James Earl Jones) – “The Sandlot”
: A very underrated character because you do not see any footage of him in action.  However, his hitting prowess matched Babe Ruth’s and the two were close friends.  The tragedy as that Mertle’s career was cut short due to blindness when he was hit with a wild pitch on the side of the head.  At the time, he was 28 years old and nearing 400 home runs.  If he had played another 5-7 years he may very well have entered the realm of Ruth, Mays and Aaron instead of holding a wealth of baseball memorabilia, owning a ferocious but loveable dog, and living next to a Sandlot, where he met our next character.

5. Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez aka Benny “The Jet” (Mike Vitar) – “The Sandlot”: One of the best named and nicknamed characters in sports, “The Jet” was first a neighborhood legend due to his unfathomable speed, his base running ability and the fact that he pickled The Beast in the summer of 1969. After pickling the Beast (as Scott Smalls’ biography Benny and His Jets documents), Rodriguez’s reputation grew and soon scouts from colleges were picking to look at the kid “with all that speed.” By the time Benny was in high school, he had already been offered a scholarship to play baseball at USC.  He played at USC and was eventually drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1978.  Benny helped the Dodgers win the 1981 World Series as he lead the Major League in steals, batted over three hundred and had over 150 hits.  Most Los Angelinos still believe he was robbed of the MVP.  However, Benny got his MVP in 1985 when the Dodgers won the World Series in 7 games over the Kansas City Royals in what was dubbed as the “Battles of the Blues.”  When “Sandlot” shows Benny in the future, that shot is from the 1993 season, which was “The Jet’s” second to last year in the league.  Even then, he still had the speed that gained him such fame and accolades.  When interviewed upon his retirement, “The Jet” said that his greatest accomplishment was pickling the beast, saying, “I’ll never forget what the Babe told me.”  When pressed, “The Jet” would comment no further.

4. Air Bud (Buddy the Dog) – “Air Bud”: When you are talking about a triple sport athlete who isn’t even human, you know you are in the Top 5 of this list.  Buddy or “Air Bud” was first known for his basketball talents after he escaped from Norm Snively (Michael Jeter) and his clown act.  Buddy went on to not only help youngsters learn about friendship and teamwork in basketball, but also football and soccer.  I would go into details, but I don’t think you need anymore. He is “Air Bud.” Do the phrases, “Golden Receiver,” “Seventh Inning Fetch,” or “Air Bud: World Pup,” mean anything to you?

3. Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes/Omar Epps) – “Major League I and II”: One of the best leadoff hitters in Major League history, Hays was an undrafted rookie out of Fort Meyers Tech.  He stumbled upon the Cleveland Indians Spring Training in 1989 and the rest is history.  He led the AL in steals in 1989 and led the entire Major League in steals in 1991, 1992 and 1993.  He was the World Series MVP in 1990 and League MVP in 1992, although the tribe fell short in the World Series that year.  He stole every base during one inning in the 1990 ALCS, he famously did the jump slide over Jack Parkman, he made tremendous catches and won the Gold Glove in 1991, 1992 and 1993.  He lived with Rick Vaughn and Jake Taylor in one of the strangest grown men roommate situations of all time. Although prone to hitting for power rather than percentage at moments, he was one of the most charismatic baseball players of all time.  Many wondered what it would have been like if he and Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez had been at their primes at the same time.  We can only wonder about the hypothetical scenarios of two fictional characters that I has assigned fictional accolades and statistics to.

2. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) – “The Rocky Franchise”: An iconic sports figure would be an understatement.  There is a statue of him erected in Philadelphia.  He defeated Apollo Creed and ushered in a new era of boxing champions.  He took back his title from Clubber Lang (who was later found to have used HGH) and ended his career in the process. Balboa took more beatings than any boxer, perhaps more than Muhammad Ali.  Rocky was the only person to defeat Ivan Drago (later found to have used HGH) and effectively ended communism and the Cold War in doing so.  A national hero in both America and in Russia, he also defeated Tommy Gunn in a streetfight and put George Washington Duke in the poorhouse in Rocky V.  In “Rocky Balboa,” his son was Jess from Gilmore Girls.  He has one of the most storied careers in sports as well as one of the most storied lives of all time.  Although sometimes incomprehensible there is no denying his greatness as a human being, a husband, a father, and an advocate of robots. Hey yo, we did it, Rock. Who would have ever thought that Mick once called him a bum back in 1977?

1. Teen Wolf (Michael J. Fox) – “Teen Wolf”: Perhaps the biggest “what-if” in Sports history is, “What if Scott Howard decided to remain the Teen Wolf for the rest of his life?”  He would have gone to the NBA straight from high school and perhaps interrupted the last two Showtime Lakers NBA Titles.  He would have gone head to head with Michael Jordan and might have even stolen a title or two from him.  Teen Wolf put up staggering numbers in his only season, averaging a Wilt Chamberlain-like 50.3 points per game, 13.7 rebounds, an unheard of 5.1 steals, but a very dismal 0.8 assists. Perhaps like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant he would have grown more unselfish with age and the desire for titles.  However, with terrible coaching from Bobby Finstock (who was on the run from the IRS) and a not great supporting cast of Chubby and number 42, you can’t blame the Teen Wolf for being a little selfish.  He had a golden run for the Beacon Town Beavers in the 1985, but in the end Teen Wolf decided that the world needed another Scott Howard, so he chose the straight life and chose to get together with his childhood sweetheart Boof.  They both went to the University of Indiana, attended all the home games, got business degrees and with the help of Mr. Howard’s nest egg from the old town hardware store, opened up the National Chain, Howard’s Hardwood Hardware.  Sometimes the simple life is just better than fame.  Teen Wolf teaches yet another lesson.

Well, there you have it.  That was a time consuming and probably soul-stealing list, but I hope you all got a laugh out of it.  That will be the entire posting until after the Memorial Day Weekend.  Next week, tune in because I will have Paul Sicilian talking basketball with me (hopefully we will have that Celtics vs. Lakers Finals) and then, the moment you have been waiting for, Nick Mencia interview me for the “Puddles of My Own Podcast.” Enjoy the weather, get to the beach and drink a damn beer please.

Take care, my Puddlers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Night the Ball Let Me Down

This will be the most bloggy post I have ever put on this blog.  Tonight was a terrible night of basketball.  Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals was terribly officiated, terribly played, and basically terrible to watch.  It barely edged out Game 5 of the very same series.  I usually don't believe in NBA conspiracy theories, but tonight actually made me consider that an NBA game might be rigged.  For anyone who watched the game, Kendrick Perkins' two technical fouls will be rescinded and he will play in Game 6 on Friday in Boston.  The Celtics will win that game and go to the 2010 NBA Finals.  If they don't it will be a terrible blow to anyone who has played competitive and passionate basketball.  This Orlando Magic team is a joke. Even if they do come back from 3-0, I will always be convinced that they are soft, that Dwight Howard is a dirty and unlikeable player, and that no one will ever win a title with Jameer Nelson as their point guard.  Game 6 is where Rajon Rondo makes his legacy and where this Celtics team makes their legacy - it is that simple.

That is the worst writing that you will ever read on this blog.

Unfortunately, there will be no podcast up tomorrow as a few recording sessions had to be postponed due to my new work schedule and the holiday weekend.  However, we will be back next week with hopefully two more podcasts. I can't let my Puddlers down.

Also, thanks to whoever clicked on an ad on this blog today - you helped to give me a profit of $0.28 in one day. Thank you very much.

Now, here is the next installment of  From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt. I apologize for this post - I just love basketball and using the dash as a form of punctuation.

A light wind blew across the grounds.  The priest remained by the casket and the crowd stood in the sun.  A woman removed a black hat, touched her hair with a cloth and placed the hat back on top of her head.  Jack Simmons could smell the warmth and moistness of the dirt.

“Looks like you were right,” Jack said. “She was a daughter. A sister.”

“I guess she’s still a sister, huh?” Ed pat Jack on the back.

Jack nodded. “Yeah, a sister.”

There were some  coughs amid the mourners. The priest looked out to the crowd, pleadingly, for someone to come before the casket and speak.  Jack noticed the man who had spoken nudging someone else.  It was a boy.  The kid looked to be about Jack’s age.  The boy paid little attention to the man, instead, pushing strands of his hair to the side.  The boy casually shifted his head and Jack caught his glance.  The face was thin and the cheekbones were high; there seemed to be shadows underneath his eyes.  The boy squinted and frowned in Jack’s direction holding his gaze.  He appeared to be regarding both Jack and Ed, their postures. Jack planted his shovel next to him and dug his hands into his pockets.  The boy’s glance passed.  Jack looked down at his boots and the pieces of grass that stuck to the toes. In some way or another he had witnessed the passing of the ages and the transfer of age to age.  The grass and the dirt had tasted the washes of blood that saw one life give to another. And he had thrown his spade into those layers of life and death.  He had taken sprouts and roots home with him, stuck in the cuffs of his pantlegs to dry and rest on the brown straw welcome mat of his basement apartment. The boy had looked at him with grey eyes marked with shadows.  However, Jack had seen something there.  There was no defiance or mockery – those storms, those eyes suggested something to him.  Something that rhymed with Gettysburg, something that smelled of dying roses, the taste of dried lipblood, the feel of grainy sand on a kneewound – the end and the beginning. Jack could feel a transferrence.  Jack tapped his boot against the base of his shovel’s spade.  The gravesdigger’s life.  There was a song to sing, the sun was shining in rays through the sycamores and on the blades of grass - slowly the spring of turf undertoe.

    The boy stood up and adjusted the collar of his shirt beneath his black coat.  He moved forward to the casket and the priest.  The boy made the sign of the cross before the priest. There was a small purple flower on the lapel of his coat. Jack saw the boy and the purple flower.  The flower was the same color as the dress Emma had worn the first time he’d seen her. Flowers didn’t have names to him, they had shapes.  However, she had a name and he’d called her by it for so many years.  They grew together.  They saw the horses from the neighbors’ farm die and the foals and phillies grow and ride.  They’d seen the rain pour down from the pink sky in the summer and the waves of the sound, made of ice, pull slowly in the winter.  And the smell of honeysuckles was always familiar and strange to him when he rode in his car around corners, the edges of his truck brushing the roadweeds.  And she’d been there. And he saw them bury her with a scrap of that purple dress draped across her breasts. What he’d known naked and clothed, now covered in black satin – he’d touched it – with a stretch of purple.

    “Mom,” the boy started. Jack cupped his hand across the bridge of his nose to see. “Mom.” The boy stopped talking and frowned at the mourners.  He took a deep breath. “My mother was the one who gave birth to the world.  You all know what  I mean when I say that and she knows right now.  If this is the end, then surely she will come to know the beginning of something new. Matter is neither created nor destroyed.  Dad and Uncle Connor know that better than anyone else.”

    The boy stopped again.  He ran his hands through his har.  He puffed it up, but it kept a clean shape, much like the man who’d spoken before him. The man who was his brother.

    “Yes, my mother gave birth to the world. Amen.”

    The boy held his hands clasped in front of him and bowed his head.  Strands of his hair fell further down into space.  Then, the boy raised his head.  He seemed to look over the crowd.  His eyes widened and he lowered his head and moved away from the casket.  Jack kicked the spade of his shovel and pieces of still moist dirt fell to the grass.

    Ed Verlaine cleared his throat and spit.  He felt goosebumps from immediate guilt, but it had been necessary.  What a strange speech for that kid to make.  When Ed’s mother died, he knew that it would be a sunny day like this one, but not quite as hot.  He’d wear a classy black suit and he’d see his Uncle Frank standing in front of his family next to Ed’s sister and dad.  His Uncle would probably be crying, because even if he was perpetually tan and perpetually tough, he was really soft in the end.  Ed had seen him cry more than a few times and he knew that his uncle secretly loved that movie “Terms of Endearment.”  He would stand in front of his family in the sun in his suit, sweat collecting under his knees as it was now and he would say confidently, without his voice breaking or cracking, all of the things that he felt for his mother.  The things he had always felt for her.  What those things were he could not exactly say – the words did not show themselves in his mind or begin to take shape and sound on his silent tongue.  A slow excitement began to burn in Ed Verlaine’s stomach through the bloat that he felt from the chicken cutlet he had eaten for lunch and the 16 oz Budweiser he had dranken to wash it down.  He felt the excitement rise and he thought of the feeling of being a boy at the town pool.  The chlorine from the pool was strong and it stung his eyes. His mother wore a plain black bathing suit and would hold his baby sister and cover her with suntan lotion.  Sometimes, she would put her in the daycare center in the shade and if the day was especially hot, she would jump into the pool with him.  He remembered the sensation – the excitement – of watching his mother jump in the pool just like him.  The way she held her nose as she jumped in and she would pay attention only to him in the clear and unclear aqua blue of the pool. 

He would say all of this in slow prepared sentences in front of his mother’s casket. The words would come out – he was positive they would.  His Uncle would have tear streaks down the sides of his red nose.  But what did all of that mean?  What was that feeling? Ed Verlaine rubbed his stomach; he felt his intestines pushing out, his skin taut like a drum.  Was that what the feeling of love was?  Or was love that soft spot in the middle of a girl’s thigh? The curves of the hips and the small freckles?  He did not want to think about that.  He wanted to think about the water and the pool and his mother and the speech he would give at her funeral, the speech that would make his family cry and would make a stranger come up to him and shake his hand and say, “You’re a fine American.  That was a some damn speech.” 

“Hey, Jack” Ed said. “Is your family all still around.”

Jack nodded.

“Mother? Father?”

Jack nodded again.

“Grandpas? Grandmas?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh,” Ed said.  He looked down at his shovel. “What kind of speech was that? Imagine giving a speech like that at your mother’s funeral.  I wonder what that kid was thinking.”

Jack Simmons turned to Ed Verlaine.  “Maybe it was the best he could do.”

“Maybe.  But you have to do better than that.  I mean, at a funeral?”

Jack Simmons looked at Ed Verlaine. “What would you say?” He said in a calm voice.

Ed Verlaine took the loose cigarette out of his pocket and slid it behind his ear.  He rubbed his thumb along the rough edge of his lighter’s wheel.  He thought of the pool, the whiteness of the sun on the water, and the chlorine smell in his nose, the chlorine feel on his skin, his sister as a little baby stomping on puddles on the sedimentary concrete, crying when one of the rocks hit the center of her foot, and his father driving his purple car somewhere far away into New York City to try to sell toys to rich businessmen. 

“I would say,” Ed started.  The sensation of water dripping from an icicle ran along his shoulder.  There were girls walking along the paths that had been cleared of the snow.  He thought of their boots and their legs.  Worlds were moving away from him, wrapping and unwrapping themselves.  What was that feeling?

“I would say something damn good,” he said confidently.  “I don’t know what the words would be, but I know the feeling.  I know what I would try to say.”

Jack Simmons frowned.  He shifted his lips sideways to the left.  There was an older man walking up to the casket now.  He took long steps.  The man’s strides seemed serious, they were measured, but there was no awareness to them – he stood tall, his shoulders slightly back, looking forward.  The older man brushed hair behind his ears.

“Why?” Ed Verlaine asked? “What would you say?”

The older man was tall and he was lean.  There was a weight about him, even though he held himself high and natural.  The man brought one hand up to his mouth and wiped his mouth.  Jack thought that he could’ve been exactly like the wind.

“What would you say? That man is born astride the grave? Some short bullshit like that?”

Jack Verlaine shrugged.  His eyes remained on Ed Verlaine.  Jack raised his right eyebrow and pointed to the older man.  Ed Verlaine looked behind himself and then back to the crowd and the older man.


Jack pointed again.

“I always admired, Rose.  I did.  At first it was because she was able to know my brother so well.  That she was able to walk so much beside Ben, that in a way she was part of Ben.” The older man took a deep breath. “I suppose that is what being married is, but, to me, it seemed especially different in their case.  Maybe it was because Rose always carried herself so gracefully and never gave any of herself away.  Maybe that was why she walked the  same way as Ben.”

“What about this guy?” Ed Verlaine said.


“Seems like he can speak fine.  You know these people or something, Jack?” Ed pulled his loose cigarette out of his pocket and cradled it in a limp fist.

Jack Simmons shook his head.

“You’re pretty damn interested. I –”

Jack Simmons looked at Ed.

Ed shook his head.  He eased the hand with the palmed cigarette back into his pocket.

“My brother,” the older man continued. “first met Rose while he was in med school.  He drove taxis at night.  Maybe some of you know this story already.” The older man paused.  He wet his lips and pushed strands of his hair behind his right ear. “But I like remembering it so I am going to tell it.  Rose was also originally from the Island, but she had just moved into our town. She had gotten a job at the university library.  Ben drove her home from the Park Bench that first night and he wouldn’t stop talking about her.  We used to tease him about the ‘red headed passenger,’ which is what we called her.”

The older man smiled, apparently playing images of long past memories through his head. He reached both hands into his pockets and leaned back.  The hum of a passing plane in the distance droned overhead.

“But my brother was hooked.  It really was the best thing for him because we didn’t know if he would make it through school at the time, but he meets a new girl who works in the library and who is smart and he begins spending all of his time in the library.”

A low laugh came from the mourners.  Ed Verlaine saw a few women dabbing their eyes with black veils or handkerchiefs.  The older man did not smile or laugh.  He kept his eyes forward and pushed strands of his hair behind his left ear.  Ed Verlaine felt the heat of the sun underneath the zipper of his uniform.

“It really was the best thing for him – meeting her.  She was patient during the ‘Billy’ years.” The older man focused on one point in the crowd.  Jack Simmons couldn’t follow his gaze.

“And she gave him and helped him raise his four thoughtful and wonderful children.” The older man kept his gaze on his focal point.  He squinted. “And when we lost Lucy –” He stopped.  “Yes, she really was the best thing for him.  I know that I will miss her.  I don’t know what Ben will do without her.  That is just something he will have to get used to.”

The older man nodded.  He squinted and slowly left the casket;  his posture held up and back; his steps measured, even, paced – the spring of turf underfoot.  Jack Simmons watched him as he returned to the black and white mass of the crowd.  The older man exhaled.  Jack could feel his grace – the inside of a dress pant leg, the smell of skin and the soft curl of hair after leaving the ocean.  Jack bit on his chapped lower lip – he felt the raised skin with his teeth.  That older man, his grace was made up of all of those things and still even more: the light given off by one candle in the dark, the light slanting through his living room on a Sunday afternoon when he was a child, the way Emma’s hands moved when she passed the thread through fabric, her legs crossed, her back sloped forward, her forehead smooth and round with hair pulled back and bunned at the top of her head.  That was all grace and life and the purple sash of death slung between two shoulders.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Puddles of My Podcast - Episode 15

Well my Puddlers, its Tuesday night and true to my word - with new job and all - here is the latest episode of Puddles of My Podcast.  In this Episode 15, I welcome a guest who has been mentioned several different times on the podcasts, one of the founding members/masterminds behind Famous Class and the man behind the skins in the band Boogie Boarder - it is Cyrus Lubin.  In this podcast Cyrus and I discuss the rambling formation of Famous Class, terrible college roommates, the stages of Boogie Boarder, how he met The Darlings, working with Damon Dash, the movie National Tresure, an unfinished bootleg of the Wolverine Movie and the Kinks. This is a podcast for the ages.  A highly enjoyable listen.

Thursday should bring my NBA podcast with Paul Sicilian, while you can look for another installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt on Wednesday and possibly Friday if I don't finish my Top 20 Movie Athletes post in time.

Also, please vote on the podcast poll on the side for what kind of podcast you would most like to see next. I really listen to you all my Puddlers - I do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

They Really Got Lost

As I was assembling the next episode of Puddles of My Podcast (which features Cyrus Lubin as my guest and will go up tomorrow evening) and I listened to the theme song, "Must've Got Lost" by J. Geils Band, I couldn't help but comment on the  night of Lost, which was last night. Four and a half hours. That's right ladies and gentleman (Puddlers or not) Lost did it once again last night by making itself the extreme spectacle on TV. After watching the two hour special, which did an insane job of exhibiting how wild the show was over the past six years and really pumped you up for the final epsidoe, I sat, drank a tall beer and watched the end of Lost unfurl over two and a half hours.

I got hooked on Lost while I was looking for work in the summer of 2006, and I tried to follow it closely since then.  I could never become a fanatic, but I appreciated it as a saga and a sprawling fantasy story.  The plot twists were so ridiculous and absurd that you had to laugh and just enjoy it. However, it wasn't until last night that I really understood why I liked the show.  There was one hungover weekend when I returned to my collge after graduating when I noticed friends of mine had the Lost card game. I proceeded to open the game up, take out the cards and explain who each character was to my friend who hadn't seen the show. I explained Sawyer, Michael, Locke, Walt, Kate, Claire, Shannon, Sayid, Hurley and the rest with a sarcasm and goofiness that made light of the show.  However, as I watched the show end and watched each character that was ever on the show be paraded out for the predictable and somewhat disappointing ending, I realized that I had always liked Lost just for the characters.  Much of the reviews of the final episodes have covered this (you can read Alan Sepinwall's great review here) and it may seem a bit obvious, but it had never occurred to me before.  Below my smirking mockery of all of the characters and the absurdity of the show itself, was a real appreciation and attachment to the characters.  That damn Desmond  and the stupid Daniel Farraday had their hooks in.  And what the Lost finale did, in all of its hokiness, was do right by each of the characters.  There were tremendously moving moments and they almost touched on a Joycean idea in the sideways world (encountering yourself in different roles and different paths) before it was revealed that it was Purgatory.

In the end, all of the theories about what Purgatory is, what the the Purgatory of each character is, how relgion actually does fit into the whole thing, whose story the show actually was, and why the hell they didn't explain all of the crazy stuff won't matter - we just cared about those characters, those Ben Linuses and John Lockes. And I find it funny that after my Beatles post from Friday about not wanting a story to end, I find myself feeling that same familiar sensation at the end of Lost - as ridiculous and stupid as the whole thing was.

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In other blog news, the band Forest City, which features Nick Mencia (leading podcast downloads at 31) will be releasing their album on this blog. We will be releasing tracks right up here, so stayed tuned for the details and the timeline as for a week or so, this blog will be devoted to Forest City.

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Finally, here is the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt. We continue on with Part II, Section 3. Remember that you can read the entire manuscript as it is posted on its own From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt Section.

Stay with me, Puddlers.

Jack waved the match out.  They were close to the crowd now.  Jack stopped and stuck his shovel into the grass.  Ed did the same.  Jack sucked in on his cigarette and dropped his hand to his side.  The crowd for the funeral was a good size.  He’d seen large funerals and samll two-person burials of urns.  There were women in hats and dresses.  The suits of the men were neat – there were no misplaced colors, no blues or purples where there should simply be blacks.

Jack focused on the girl with the crimson hair.  She was prettier than she’d seemed from further away.  Her hair was hanging down over her shoulders.  It was sheen and it shone white and then red.  Jack was tempted to think of blood, but instead his mind brought him to the harbor at dusk.  The Pepsi machine and the white paint of the harbor house. The sky was pink-red like worn fingertips and the waves moved in diamond shapes against the sailboats and pylons. An off white mutt with lab in it trotted on the small sand beach, it’s chain collar rattling.  The salt came strongly to his nose and the water was red-brown – a liquid brick.  He watched it all turn to purple and then black. His heart felt light then, as the plovers picked at snails, as it did now, even while he was hot, itchy and his ears filled with wax.

The woman with the brown hair stopped speaking and moved over to the crowd of mourners.  The girl with auburn hair watched her move.  Jack wondered what she saw when she saw something move.  Did she see the color brown? The skin of the woman? Most likely, she saw the woman as a relative – as someone in relation to her family and her life and the meaning and color she contained sprung out of that. Jack Simmons felt the heat of his cigarette between his fingers.  He brought it to his mouth, inhaled and threw it onto the grass.  Slowly, the spring of turf undertoe.

Ed Verlaine threw his cigarette down and stomped it with the toe of his boot.  He exhaled the smoke of his last drag and nodded his head toward the crowd.

“This one was a mother, right?”

Jack raised his right eyebrow and nodded.

Ed nodded.  He tilted his head back and looked at the blue sky.  There were puffs of white clouds passing slowly.  “Fuck,” he said. “Smoking on a hot day like this makes me want to quit.  What’s the point, you know? I mean, look at the grass at this place, they always keep it in such great shape.  We should be running, you know?”

Jack smiled at him. “You’re right.”

Ed stuck his hands into his pockets and stepped up next to Jack.  “Who do you think the kids were? I’ve seen you checking out that redhead.  You think she was a daughter?”

“Maybe,” Jack nodded.  “I think so.”

Ed looked at the side of Jack’s face. “You don’t have a wife do you, Jack?”

The girl with auburn hair kept her gaze straightforward toward the casket.  The sun made her hair turn bright red, then deep brown like syrup.  An edge of light changed the whole complexion of the color.  Jack tried to see her eyes so that he could know exactly what she saw.  She stood straight with her right arm bent and her hand and fingers slightly behind her back.  He wanted that to be enough.

“No,” he said. “No, I don’t.”

Ed nodded and Jack stayed fixed on the redhead.  He had never tried to directly ask Jack a question about himself like that.  If he was going to work at this job in the heat and the cold, he might as well know something about his partner – his co-worker.  What else was there to do while they watched women, children and husbands cry? They had to talk about the lives they were living, the amount of beer they could drink, the times they got laid, a story or two about their mothers, maybe even the funerals they had been to before for their grandparents or friends.  Ed felt himself getting angry at Jack.  Why was he stuck here with this guy who would barely speak, but who seemed to have a lot to say if he would open his mouth?  Ed could see the way he studied the redhead; he knew he wasn’t just thinking about how good she could fuck.  There was something Jack was getting from the scene in front of them and Ed could not follow what it was.  He saw the legs of a girl in tights, the sun shining and ice dripping off of pine trees in slow fat drops onto pavement.  He felt short of breath, his brow became flushed and he could touch the sweat around his neck.  The mourners by the casket and their sharp clothes, especially the redhead and her dark green dress, seemed to be imposing themselves on him, while the green of the grass and the blue of the sky further off behind it reminded him, once again of some feeling or some memory that he should know or remember immediately and be able to call out to.  However, he could not.  Ed Verlaine dug his shovel into the dirt and listened to the crunch of grass roots.  He shook another cigarette out of his pocket and cradled it in the “V” of his  middle and index fingers.

“Smoke?” Ed asked.

Jack shook his head.

Ed cradled the cigarette and slid it back into his pocket outside of the cellophane of the pack.
A man with a nice haircut walked up in front of the casket.  The priest shook the man’s hand  as he approached.  The man turned to the mourners.  His hair was parted evenly on the right side of his head.  Ed thought that he looked like a World War II soldier.  It seemed to him that the man was looking at the red head as well.  The man adjusted his legs and feet.  He tilted his head up away from the red head and up to the sky, taking one hand out of his pocket to rub his nose.  Ed cradled the worn wooden end of his shovel. 

“My mother,” the man began. “was a good woman. All of you here knew her and so you all must have known that.”  Ed clicked his tongue.  This man was a son.  The red head could be his sister.  If they were, they surely didn’t look it.  Ed wondered which one had the red hair: the father or the dead mother?

“But to simply call her a good woman would be too easy – something too maudlin or out of a movie.  What does that even mean? Certainly, my sister, Maggie wouldn’t let me get away with that.”

The red head shifted and the crowd murmered.  She was the sister.

“Anyway.  She was a good woman.  She was smart and she taught all of us-well she taught me to live with a sense of pride and a sense of duty.  Not to say that I was as noble as that, but mom knew how important life was…even the mundane tasks we have to do, which are often the right things to do.  She was never above anything and I feel like she taught much of that to me, to me and to my brothers and sisters.

“I will miss her cooking. I know that.  Although I have been away from it for a long time now since I’ve moved to Washington which, was another great thing about mom – the way she welcomed Eve into our family.  You sort of always want it to end up that your wife and your mom get along, and for me it happened without any fighting or anything.”

The man frowned and his mouth rose in a half-grin.  He looked over to the crowd somewhere.  Ed couldn’t see who he was looking toward and craned his neck slightly.  The man put both of his hands in his pockets.

“She’s gone though now and,” the man paused.  He was choking up. “She will never see my grandkids and they won’t get to call her grandma.  But it’s OK because she lived her life with beauty and grace and that is what I believe she is going to return to.  And, mom, I love you.  Dad, I love  you.”

The man walked away from the casket and over to the crowd.  There was always an instinct to get emotional when hearing someone speak about their dead loved one, especially a parent.  Ed Verlaine found himself crying at one burial where a young girl had died and her older brother went up to speak. “She won’t be there to talk to,” he had said.  The boy was about fourteen or fifteen.  The whole thing just made Ed cry.  He’d thought about his own little sister who was still in college and the fight he’d gotten into with her about her boyfriend who he didn’t like – the one with the red car and the Italian sounding first name.  He couldn’t imagine his life without his sister, though. Without her there, he  would have no ally, no one to share in the fact that he was the child of his parents; no one who knew his parents like him.  No matter if they spoke or didn’t speak, fought or didn’t fight – that was there.  The fact that they shared the same last name and the same parents and even the same room at one point.  Ed pushed down on the rounded shovel end.  The head crushed more sod and dirt.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Crossing Abbey Road

There are two sources I use to find out all I need to know about rock and roll music: my soul and  This is what the biography for the Beatles says:

So much has been said and written about the Beatles — and their story is so mythic in its sweep — that it's difficult to summarize their career without restating clich├ęs that have already been digested by tens of millions of rock fans. To start with the obvious, they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century. Moreover, they were among the few artists of any discipline that were simultaneously the best at what they did and the most popular at what they did.

This quote is absolutely on point regarding writing or speaking anything about the Beatles. Like John sang in “All You Need is Love,” when it comes to the Beatles there’s nothing you can do that can’t or hasn’t been done.  However, like that statement also implies, the same fact holds true for life in general.  That is why when I finally decided that I had to write about the Beatles in some way on this blog, I knew I had to just jump right in and write about them headlong. Obviously, you can write about any number of the Beatles’ albums.  They each contain pleasures that are revealed upon each listen; they are each enjoyable; and they each require multiple listens.  The one album that has always fascinated me for its elevated mystique and stature as a cultural icon within the Beatles catalogue has been Abbey Road. Now, I know that it is nearly impossible to raise one Beatles album or song above the others in mystique or in iconic nature, but I truly believe that there is some quality about Abbey Road that does just that. It stands alone in album history – there is no other that sounds like it.  It sounded simultaneously of time and out of time with the world of 1969-1970 and opened the door for the overproduction of the 1970’s when the music was placed in lesser hands.  It leaves one to wonder what the Beatles would have done had they stayed together.

But first we have to begin with the album itself and you have to start with the artwork.  The image of the Beatles walking across the crosswalk outside of the Abbey Road Studios has been imprinted on t-shirts, blankets and banners all across the world. Moreso than the inner artwork for The White Album, it shows the Beatles as the individuals that they were becoming.  The image was interpreted as an “Italian funeral procession” and mythologized in the Beatles canon for the perceived messages regarding the supposed death of Paul McCartney towards the end of the Beatles’ time as a band.  It is a clean, balanced image with a sense of depth. It is an everyday image on which the mythological and the supernatural can be imposed: that is the quality that all great works of art achieve, namely (haha!) James Joyce’s Ulysses. When I was younger, and had my initial delusions of writing a novel, I came up with a concept for a novel that would revolve around a young boy who loved a band (a fictional version of the Beatles) so much that he sought them each out individually after they had broken up in an attempt to have them reunite.  The album image I used as the focal point to describe the band in the initial pages of an ill-fated draft, was a rip-off of the Abbey Road cover.  That is exactly what sets Abbey Road apart; it is that element of story that the album artwork emits.  The album benefits from being the last recorded album in the band’s chronology so one can see it as an end, which allows the story itself to then become fully formed. Abbey Road shows four individuals growing from boys or young men, through the guise of friendship (a band) into adult individuals.  The Beatles were a cocoon that allowed each member to emerge as their individual self, fully formed and tinted with their own color and personality.  Abbey Road is the point when you realize that original form is truly and utterly gone. When I describe why I enjoy the Beatles to other people, I say it is because it is the closest real life has ever come to a fairy tale; the closest real life has ever come to fitting in place. Abbey Road for its cover art and the strange wistful feeling of the music that lies within its grooves and tracks captures that wistful notion of wanting to go back to the beginning of a story; of not wanting to say goodbye to the characters; it is the end of a novel, the end of the saga, and although our characters continue on, they do not exist in the same way that we knew them. Abbey Road is what completes that image of the Beatles as a band and in turn allows the image of the band as story – the band as fairy tale.

The Beatles began, like most bands of the 60’s did, as a band that focused on singles.  That is exactly what Side 1 of the album accomplishes.  Each song is a snapshot of what the band meant when they were all together as a unit, as an object that they were directly seen and consumed as.  “Come Together” is a classic example of John’s self-deprecating wit and word games.  However, here, unlike his solo career, the groove feels slinkier rather than sparse or slick, which were the two poles his solo career veered between.  And in the remastered version, the song has an overall immediate groove to the rhythm section that the original recording sorely lacked. Paul’s harmonies on the verses give the song a sonic depth that much of John’s solo work only grasped at with either heavy-handed production or excess echo (which did work in certain instances). George’s slide guitar playing would also be missed on much of John’s solo work, or, if said instrument was present, was terribly overproduced. “Something” is soulful, spiritual and universal without being too preachy as George was often wont to do when he was out on his own. Although All Things Must Pass is arguably the best solo Beatles album, and on it, George often sings very direct lyrics, he was never more direct in his message and lyricism than on this track. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” although detested by the band has a McCartney playfulness that lacks the sap that would almost surely have been featured in the final product had he gone about recording the track himself.  There is something in the brief guitar bite in the chorus and the devilishness of the over innocence of the backing vocals that Paul could only accomplish as a part of The Beatles. The same sentiment goes for “Oh, Darling!”  Paul came close to duplicating the effect on both “Baby I’m Amazed” and “Monkberry Moon Delight,” however each track was either too schlocky (the former) or too repetitive and nonsensical, albeit rocking (the latter). “Octopus’ Garden” features Ringo’s inspired writing to see a concept through as well as the support of the entire Beatles cast, rather than just one or two as most of Ringo’s solo albums did, which leads to its success; that and George’s excellent guitar playing, especially the catchy little guitar line at the end of his solo.  John could have only successfully pulled off “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” in the Beatles.  If he was solo, the guitar wouldn’t be as melodic and he would have lacked the almost “round” backing vocals that help the chorus build into a steady storm that eventually will become the track’s coda. Without George and Paul (and of course Ringo) this would have been a more one-dimensional rocker that many of John’s solo albums would feature. And with the brimming confidence of the moniker the Beatles, comes the ability to cut the tape at the very end of the side.

Unlike The White Album, we do not necessarily see the Beatles as complete separate entities on Abbey Road. It has been well documented that Abbey Road was acknowledged by the Beatles as being the last album that they would record together, so perhaps that plays a great part in their taking a posture as being “a band.” The acrimony between the members was well documented by the time they reconvened to record the album and each member had his own desires of being a grown adult individual, as we all surely do when we come to a certain age. And that is where “The Medley” comes in.

Side 2 is known more or less as “The Medley.”  We all know how terrific a song “Here Comes the Sun Is” and in the remastered version, its sonic power is even more evident and unstoppable than originally heard.  As for “Because,” well, Paul could finally say that he really beat Brian Wilson at his own game – although it was a John song. What we really come to Side 2 for is “The Medley.”  Allow me to tell a story.  Last weekend, I had to leave a friend’s barbeque in Westchester in order to make it to Park Slope for another barbeque.  This friend was visiting from Texas and so a bunch of us went up to his family’s home to enjoy the afternoon and the charcoal smoke.  I, like I often find myself doing, helped myself to a bevy of afternoon beers.  When it was time to catch the 6:52 train, I found myself jogging away from my friend’s home at 6:42 towards the train station, which was just down the hill.  I ran down the hill breathing in the cool air of the May evening. Young girls, presumably without driver’s licenses, passed me, talking on the street; talking probably of what boys they liked or what tests they had or even how to score a bag of pot.  I jogged and crossed a creek, pausing midway when I saw a clearing just adjacent to the creek itself, where the sunlight filtered through the trees.  There was warmth, there was light and there was coolness. The shape of the space made me want to run to it, but I needed to run to the train instead, which I did.  I boarded the train and as it barreled back to New York City, I sat slouched in my seat looking out the window.  I was daytime drunk and feeling pleased.  The light filtered through trees as I passed them rapidly.  I felt a certain freshness, a sense of being alive, of how big New York City was and of how much it encompassed.  How this motion of riding a Metro North train down to Grand Central Station was inherent in New York.  I rode while listening to “The Medley” and its vague sense of melancholy.  One does not gain very much from listening to the Beatles’ lyrics.  At best, they grope at an obtuse poetry that merely aims to please.  However, the Beatles succeeded so well because they could mix melody and put a phrase to it to make it sound profound, which is what “The Medley” perfectly exemplifies. “Out of college money spent/See no future, pay no rent/All the money’s gone, nowhere to go/But, oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go.”  That sequence from “You Never Give Me Your Money” seems to have nothing to do with the song as a whole.  However, it fits nicely with the melancholy of the melody.  There is a wistfulness to it all, that, when riding on a train or a bus in the dimming sunlight of a late spring evening, makes you think of leaving college behind, makes you think of those green idyllic lawns of your college education and of the route you now find yourself on.  What would you do to go back there?  What would you give to be able to continue to leave it behind?

Further, there is the refrain of “Boy, you’re gonna carry that weight/Carry that weight a long time” from “Carry that Weight.”  This line obviously has no direct correlation to the rest of the medley about Polythene Pam (my favorite Beatles song) or Mean Mr. Mustard or “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.”  Yet, it sounds profound, because, yes, we are all going to carry a weight through our lives.  That weight is usually that nostalgia to get back to that time that came before – the beginning of the story. Now, perhaps Paul didn’t mean that when he wrote these lyrics. However, there is something that strikes you as true about “once there was a way to get back home.”  For some reason, there seems to be no real way to get back home and that’s what all our greatest literature and music seem to echo. Abbey Road magnifies this because of its falling into place at the end of the Beatles catalogue and makes one think of the simpler times.  The Beatles as young boys before all of the music business games they had to play and their identity as cultural and global icons. “The Medley” manages to pull this effect off through its melody, which changes hue from melancholy to triumphant with “The End.” There was no better way to end an album than with each band member (I know, I know, not Ringo) taking a turn at guitar solos.  That just makes sense as a swan song. Paired with Paul’s lyrics, which have since become a modern day proverb, of “And in the end, the love you take/Is equal to the love you make” and you have what is perhaps the perfect coda to a career.

So, then, that weight is not just the want to go back, it is that greater sensation that we have to love others or to love a time and to feel that love again when the weather is warm and the sunlight falls in such a way that it reminds of something within ourselves, it reminds us as Joyce once said, “of that word known to all men.” What that word is, can be interpreted in many ways, but it is that feeling that makes us feel those overarching senses of longing and melancholy and love, which a train ride, while drunk during the day can certainly make you feel. Especially as you feel stuck in between the vastness of New York, its sense of history and the impossibility of your future and some image of an idyllic past that most likely belongs to a work of fiction. This is what well-placed phrases can do when mixed with a melancholy melody.

Before I conclude, I just want to mention the Extras Special, which was in fact the finale to Ricky Gervais’ show Extras. Extras explored the notion of fame and loyalty and the decision a person or artist has to make about whether they want to be creatively viable or famous. The Extras Special is perhaps the best television I have ever seen in my life and it fits nicely into the idea of the weight that we carry. At some point, we have to decide what we actually want out of life and our creative endeavors. I have had no level of notoriety at all for my creative work, but I know different people at different levels of creative achievement in different areas of the arts and I see these crossroads rapidly approaching in different directions. How does one remain creatively viable and successful? It is nearly an impossible feat to achieve and at some point, you have to remember that pride can only be carried in bulk for a certain amount of years before you have to make room for other priorities.  I don’t know if this blog will catch on with anyone or if this writing will, but I want to avoid a fate of ignorance.

This post may not be very enlightening and, to be frank, there is very often nothing enlightening about the Beatles.  They simply trusted in themselves and made the smartest creative decision in the moment.  When they recorded “Long, Long, Long” on The White Album there was a wine bottle on top of one of the pianos in the studio.  As the piano was played during the recording, the glass of the bottle made a groaning sound, which George imitated in the song. This gives the song a better sense of longing, which makes it more powerful.  Trusting coincidence and leaving yourself open to creative opportunities will create success.  Will there be another Beatles? Of course not, it was a fairy tale.  A mixture of timing, coincidence, talent and friendship.  Those four virtues are hard to come by.  However, that is not enlightening. I love the Beatles.  They made the most enjoyable music I can think of, they seemed to make every smart decision possible. The Beatles were able to balance creative viability with success and that is the weight you have to carry as you grow older.  Abbey Road makes you think of what the Beatles could have accomplished had they remained together as band, however the truth is that they never would have remained together. But maybe one of the reasons that we keep coming back to the album is because we like to think that perhaps there was a chance they could have. We keep coming back to Abbey Road because there is the fairy tale; there we don’t have to grow up and leave our friends and have to make decisions between success and loyalty, creative viability or economic survival; there we don’t have to take that uncertain step into adulthood and the mature (hopefully) individualism that lies there. That is the weight that we must certainly carry as we try to find that balance in our lives, while we ride on trains in dimming sunlight back and forth between cities.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Puddles of My Podcast - Episode 14

It's Thursday and that means there is another installment of Puddles of My Podcast.  In Episode 14 of Puddles of My Podcast, I welcome the writer Chris Dannen to the program.  In our discussion, Chris and I stumble upon such topics as his life as a freelance writer, Notorious B.I.G. remixes, working with literary agents, attempting to have empathy for a computer, reading the letters and writing of Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, economical writing, his two novels and the nature of the technology world. A very surprising and terrific podcast.  This is an intimate experience that I recommend you listen to.

Tomorrow, my review of The Beatles' Abbey Road.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Now, I am sure you are asking, "What's with the post name, Domino? And what does it have anything to do with Patrick Ewing and a young-looking, handsome David Stern?" Well, Little Puddler, I can explain everything to you and very simply.  The name of this post derives itself from the internet connection that we use here at the Puddles of Myself headquarters. When this internet connection is working smoothly, I can post as many times as I want to and right on the schedule I like to keep for the blog.  However, this week Linksys2 has been giving me some problems so that is why your Tuesday podcast was delayed and also why there was no post on Monday.

The name Linksys2 also works because this is the kind of post I like to do every so often when I round up some links and other random things to point you to so that you can read and etc.

Oh, and the Patrick Ewing picture I just think is funny and is also timely because last night the NBA Draft Lottery took place, which is always a great spectacle to watch.  In somewhat a shocking turn of events, the Washington Wizards will have the number one pick in the NBA Draft on June 24, 2010 where they will most likely pick John Wall who they hope can turn around their franchise after the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Gilbert Arenas and his gun-toting ways.  It is yet to be determined if the Wizards will find a way to release Gilbert Arenas from the team, but I know already that the pre-gun incident Arenas would not be humble enough to share the ball with a natural point guard like John Wall. We'll see how this plays out as the draft has really only two sure bets (John Wall and Evan Turner), two players with significant potential but serious questions (Derrick Favors and Demarcus Cousins), and a lot of marginal talent that won't necessarily add a ton to each team, but if picked by the right team can really help to bolster some lineups around the league and fill in the cracks.  This is more of a glue draft than a real substantive draft.  Now, to some links.

- Sticking with the NBA, Bill Simmons delivered two great columns last week. The first was a game diary of Game 5 between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, while the second was a breakdown of the future for LeBron after Cleveland lost the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Celtics. I read this after my own post on LeBron and the lead up to his pending free agency. As always, Simmons does a terrific job.

- Also last Friday, Simmons did a podcast with Carlton Cuse who is one of the creators of Lost. If you have followed the show at all it is a very interesting listen.  I watched parts of last night's episode and am definitely going to watch the two and a half hour series finale next week.  I think I'm going to go to the Bell House and watch it. Maybe dress up like Sawyer or Sayid.

- Speaking of TV. I am definitely getting anxious for Season 4 of Mad Men to start. The season is scheduled to begin on July 25, 2010 and there is a little bit of info about some unclear items that may take place in the fourth season.

- While we are on the subject of Mad Men, check out this picture of a young Don Draper (Jon Hamm) playing Lorelai Gilmore's boyfriend on an old school episode. He was already developing some classic Draper faces.

- I forgot on the earlier post today to provide a link to the Darlings' material so that you can just it out when you are not listening to the podcast with Joe Tirabassi. You can also check out pictures and other items of the band here.

- I also forgot to mention last week that my friend Janelle Sing, who has done her own podcast as well as the Gilmore Girls podcast, has a new blog up, Giovanni and Giotto, in addition to her website. The blog features more blog type of material and musings as well as pictures of some of the new items she is designing, which include shoes, handbags, and wallets.  Stay on top of her blog as it will be a good way for you to purchase some of these products at the ground level before she blows up big time.

- In other blog related news, I wanted to give a shout out to the blog of Ally Jane Grossan, which is called Kitchen Princess. Ally Jane and I used to work together at Salmagundi Magazine when I was a senior at Skidmore and she was a freshman. Since I left Skidmore, Ally Jane took over the reigns of a lot of the operational stuff going on at the magazine. I always thought that she had a strictly literary writing interest, however, it turns out she has been keeping a terrific food blog at Kitchen Princess that I recommend anyone should read and keep up with.

- My friend Luna Malachowski Bajak of the blog Postres de Abuela y Torres de Caramelo, has had another blog that she updates, which features her artwork.  Please check it out here.

- A final blog I need to mention is the blog of my friend Cyrus Lubin.  Mr. Lubin has created a dog blog, which has some great pictures, but in my opinion, features some fantastic captions.

- The upcoming podcasts that will be appearing on this blog will include the following guests: Chris Dannen (writer) on writing and other related topics; Cyrus Lubin (drummer, label head, promoter, organizer extraordinare) on his own band, promoting shows, and the Famous Class label; Lauren Gidwitz (artist) on her art, painting and other items that we come up with on the spot; and Paul Sicilian on the NBA Playoffs overall, the Tony Castles and the success of the Boston Celtics.  A lot of good stuff I promise you.

- Some future podcast ideas that I have coming up will be a podcast with David Stern devoted to the baseball movies, Major League, Major League 2, Little Big League, Rookie of the Year and Mr. Baseball; a podcast with Erik Gundel about the movie Teen Wolf; and Gilmore Girls Podcast Part 2 adding Ally Jane Grossan as a possible Gilmore Pundit.  I've been getting a lot of responses about that podcast and we may need a whole panel for that one.  May even need to change the title of this blog.

- Speaking of Teen Wolf, please look at this video. It is probably the funniest thing of all time.

- Finally, in a bit of personal news and news related to this blog, I will be starting a new job at W Magazine next week. I will continue to update the blog as I have been over the past two months but you can usually expect to find posts on the blog in the evening from now on.

Alright, my Puddlers, there are always good things coming on this blog. Just stick with me and I will take you there.

Puddles of My Podcast - Episode 13

OK, so I know some of you Puddlers out there may be disappointed with my output so far this week. However, there has been a lot going on.  Good friends of mine were just married yesterday and so that turned into a long night; I have just gained employment at W Magazine; and the weekend ended up stretching a little further out into the week.  In addition, the free internet subscription over here has been suspect over the past few days. Anyway, there will still be two podcasts this week and the following columns that will be posted within the next week:

1. Review of Abbey Road
2. Link Post (shout out to funny links, etc.)
3. From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt installment
4. Top 20 Movie Sporting Figures of All-Time

But anyway, today, I post for your listening enjoyment, Episode 13 of Puddles of My Podcast.  In this installment, I welcome the eloquent and articulate Joe Tirabassi of the Darlings.  In our conversation, Joe and I discuss Baltimore sports, Curtis Mayfield's live output, the history of the Darlings, Edgar Allen Poe, the Strokes, the last Darlings album and their future plans, best albums to listen to on vinyl, as well as the changing nature of journalism as we move to new media.  This is an intimate conversation that I found very enjoyable and I think that you all should as well.

There is just one place for you - it's here where there is always new content

Friday, May 14, 2010

LeBron Saves

I’m listening to “Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie on repeat, so bear with me here if I veer toward the dramatic.

Those of you who read this blog in order to obtain knowledge about basketball or at least my passion, understanding and thoughts on the game, most likely know that last night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. You will all most likely know that that loss may have been LeBron James’ final game playing in a Cleveland uniform. This fact will be pointed out you numerous times over the next week by NBA Insiders on ESPN that go by the names of Chad Ford, Rick Bucher, Chris Broussard, Jamaal Mashburn, Avery Johnson, Matt Legler, Michael Wilbon, etc. This list will go on and on and that is not even counting online insiders from Sports Illustrated,,, as well as Cleveland beat writers and any other basketball mind from a city such as Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Newark (love them NETS!), or this New York.

The speculation will continue under various scenarios: What if Chicago hires John Calipari? Will LeBron want to play with Derrick Rose? What if Chicago works a sign and trade with Cleveland giving them Luol Deng and Kirk Heinrich for LeBron James? What if Chicago can convince Phil Jackson to come back and coach LeBron? What if the Nets get the first pick in the draft? What if they draft John Wall and then work out a sign and trade for Devin Harris with another team? What if Wade, LeBron and Chris Bosh all arrange a meeting on South Beach as they have said they will in order to coordinate how the free agency period is going to work? What if Spike Lee launches his master marketing campaign as he has hinted he is about to do? What if New York Magazine continues to publish pointless articles about getting LeBron to come to New York like they just did this past week?

Perhaps what will be lost in all of the speculation and posturing will be the sheer absurdity of this situation. Maybe the absurdity will be appreciated, who knows? What I do know is that this is a singular situation in sports history. Basically, we have our generation’s equivalent of Michael Jordan (not in talent, style of play, success or anything else, but merely in media attention and marketing capability) entering a situation (he has already slightly entered it, but now the magnification begins) that is unprecedented. With all due respect to Kobe Bryant, no one ever cared enough about Kobe to create this much speculation. Kobe held the world at arm’s length, never seemed to be likeable and never seemed to really invest in being liked by the outside world. He didn’t want to allow any privileged glimpses into his human heart. There was no hugging of the Larry O’Brien trophy and crying like Michael Jordan did upon winning his first title or the Father’s Day Collapse after Michael won his first title since his father’s death. Kobe wouldn’t allow that, so no one truly invested in Kobe as a media figure, as a means of transcendence. LeBron on the other hand was warm. He welcomed the media attention, he welcomed the position he found himself in as the next savior of the game of basketball, he relished the opportunity to become the first sports billionaire. So, in an era of hyper saturated media, we latched onto him. He has a square jaw and is a handsome man with charisma. He is young, he has exceptional talent and grace as well as a flourish for style: these are things that are not just held as the pinnacles of virtue in America, but perhaps throughout the entire world.

If you have followed this blog, you are well aware that I do not particularly care for LeBron James. I prefer Dwyane Wade. LeBron carries a certain childishness about him that seems out of character for someone who is supposed to be a leader and a winner. Dwyane Wade is all business. For lack of a better comparison, Wade carries more of the Michael Jordan gene in competition, though not nearly as intense. Although Michael was the ultimate killer, he made himself seem transcendent and luminous rather than dour and forced as Kobe has. Wade shares much more of Michael’s traits. Wade fills the stat lines just as much and as well as LeBron does, but he continues to be overlooked even though he has already won a championship – this is mainly because his teams have been terrible and uninspiring for the past three years.

I do not want this to turn into a Wade and LeBron comparison because I could go on and on about how much I love and appreciate Dwyane Wade’s basketball game. What I want to say is that after last night, I finally feel for LeBron James. He is blessed with freakish size and strength for a basketball player, which has been paired with exceptional talent. His blend of skill and ability has not been seen before in the NBA and that is why he does receive more attention that Dwyane Wade. Last night in Game 6, LeBron James had a triple double. It was perhaps the quietest triple double by a superstar NBA player, in the playoffs, in the history of the NBA. LeBron finished the game with 27 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 assists. So, to be clear, not only did LeBron put up a triple double last night, he also nearly put up a 20 and 20 as well. Yet, when we look back on Game 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals, it will not be remembered for those stats. It will be remembered as the second pivotal game in a row, in a series that may have altered his career, that LeBron James seemed to lack a competitive fire. He played terrible in Game 5. That is undisputable. And the fact that he put up the numbers he did last night and still seemed uninspired is a testament to his talent. The effort that LeBron appeared to put into the game, his final stat-line and the outcome of the series are all incredibly baffling to me as a person who has followed sports, especially the NBA, for nearly his entire life.

What the big crime in all of this is the intense media scrutiny. Now, granted, declaring one of your aspirations is to be the first billionaire in the history of sports is a tremendous way to attract media scrutiny. LeBron has always embraced the lofty dreams and hopes that sports fan have foisted upon his image and with that acceptance comes the left hook, which is that when you are down, when you do not succeed to a level that is commensurate with the faith and trust the people put into you, you are going to be hit and hit hard – especially, if the effort you put in does not appear to be heartfelt and full of soul, if it does not appeal to the hardworking, Puritanical core that lies inside of each beating American heart, no matter how much we may disguise it with a professed admiration for grace and a breezy, Daisy Buchanan/Great Gatsby elegance.

The almost 48 hours leading up to Game 6 were a brutal feeding frenzy of speculation and admonishment on the image and achievment of LeBron James. It is only going to get worse in the next 48 days until July 1, 2010 when LeBron James finally makes his decision on where to play basketball next year. We are going to hear about LeBron every day until he actually makes a decision. The media coverage may eclipse what could be two entertaining Conference Finals series as well as a possible Lakers vs. Celtics Final. Kobe may gain his fifth NBA Championship in the process. In this time, we are going to see LeBron denigrated by some media outlets, by men and women with a mouthpiece who are trying to garner attention and accolade for their opinions. I’m not better than any of them as I even provide my own speculation on this blog. All I know is that at one time I would have revelled in LeBron James’ failure. I would have reveled in it because I envied the ease in which he was able to achieve such great feats, I envied the attention he received over a player who I believed deserved more accolades, I thought he lacked the high-seriousness that a successful athlete should have. People said similar things about Magic Johnson, but Magic Johnson always won and Magic figured out how to kill – if only later and reluctantly. Maybe the same things will happen for LeBron. But today, as I listened to “Oh! You Pretty Things” on the subway and saw people holding newspapers with LeBron’s image on it with headlines that reveled in his failure and headlines that pounced on the possibility that he might come and save New York, I no longer thought that it would be fun to hate LeBron James. I understood, in my own way, the pratfalls of his position and the responsibilities that come with his level of attention and desire for success. Yet, with newspapers littered on the subway floor and sticking out of trashcans and over the tips of commuters’ fingers, I didn’t feel like joining in on the fray. I merely thought of those newspapers being ripped to shreds, those cover pages with LeBron’s image and felt like I needed to get home and have a strong cup of coffee.

Hopefully, I’ll get to enjoy the rest of the basketball season in some modicum of peace that I can arrange for myself. This world is changing and so much our heroes when they fail. “Oh! You Pretty Things,” indeed.