Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Go to the 'Mats

One of the fundamental elements of writing, regardless of the formant, is that there must be a story, no matter how miniscule.  Even when the form is as kaleidoscopic and broken apart as Ulysses, there remains a core story, which pulls us in; a core story that we truly care about.  This is an obvious and widely known fact by any one who has read a book, watched television or retreated to the darkness of the movie theatre.  All of this being evident and proven true (yes, even you Seinfeld), makes the fact that what I am about to write even harder, because I am not so sure what the story or the point of the matter even is.

Alex Chilton is of course dead now.  Most music fans know this and most music fans mourned this.  Alex Chilton’s work was somewhat widely known, greatly appreciated, and especially loved by that button down shirt or old sweater that you maybe wore too much, but everyone seemed to love because it smelled like you – or if not you specifically, then your closet or the detergent your mom packed away for you when you moved out. 

However, there was a time when Alex Chilton wasn’t dead and in that time I learned about a band that his music as much as their own dirty shirts – that band was the Replacements. Coming of age in the late 90’s and early 00’s, of course I was late to the Replacements party.  I had only learned about them through Big Star by way of Wilco and even then, it was through singles (did they really have any?) and odd tracks that I picked up in the glorious groping days of downloading from Napster or Limewire or Kazaa or whatever you could pump for music and bits of porno – this is already starting to sound like a bit of a Replacements song.  However, it was not until I got to college and a good friend of mine who lived on the first floor of my dorm (I lived on the third) introduced me to a thorough knowledge of the band and an immediate love of the album Tim. I could immediately relate to the feelings of angst, restlessness, passion, self-deprecation, and ultimately drunkenness that roamed around the corridors of each track on the album. I distinctly recall visions of looking out the window of one of my living spaces on a Sunday and listening to “Here Comes a Regular” and thinking that I had to grow up sometime, but the only problem was that I enjoyed the clarity of the picture that was painted for me, that I wanted to indulge in the cliché even further: that brown, not sepia, toned image of a bar in the middle of the day, which causes a certain level of ease on the surface, until you realize that that image is good for one day, but will ultimately cause a hollowness and loneliness as seasons pass.  I think I thought about those things in the fall.

And it turns out I wasn’t alone in having my mind drawn to such profound ruminations on the human condition.  After I graduated college, I spent a stint teaching at a private school in New Hampshire right on the shores of Lake Winnipesauke.  The summer was spent teaching students from Thailand about American culture and the American education system.  As part of this teaching, we were given small focus groups of eight students with which we were to discuss current events, American customs and values or relevant cultural touchstones.  I had the inclination to teach my group about the Replacements.  Not because I was a rebellious punk – I have always been far from it – but because it seemed to make the most sense to use the band as an example for these kids, who came from a rigid memory based education, to the merits of forming an opinion and expressing it with passion and conviction.  Critical thinking and self-expression are the ultimate goals of American education are they not?  Well, at least the liberal college demographic, then? OK. We agree.  So, I played them various selections from The Replacements’ (The Mats) catalogue, including the aforementioned, album-ending masterpiece that is “Here Comes a Regular.” While the song was playing, I asked the students what they thought of the music. I asked them how it compared to their music.  I asked them what it made them think of.  The most memorable response was from a favorite student of mine who was an innately creative guy. His response was:

“I see myself…I see myself walking across the blank.”

I don’t think that two dozen rock-writers crammed into a room could have stumbled across that poignant and absolutely perfect description of The Replacements.  What this student grasped about the song, and perhaps the entire band, was how well that could make palpable that fine line between loneliness and rebelliousness and energy and how the two are usually inseparable and usually leave you, in one way or another, “walking across the blank.”

The story continues to become diluted, because this is not  supposed to be about “Here Comes a Regular” or even about the album Tim.  This is really about the album Let it Be (those new to the Replacements, that is a Replacements album, not the Beatles album, although it is a toss-up for iconic album covers in my opinion).  This is about the album Let it Be because during that time, like Alex Chilton and like the Replacements, I loved something so much that it joined that rare pantheon of those shirts and sweaters that are at one with the familiar scents that we can only call “me,” “fresh laundry,” or “home.”  In my case, like the cases of so many other people in the world, this was an actual person. And maybe I haphazardly allowed myself to indulge in these strong emotions, but maybe not.  Hindsight is never 20/20.

So, in this time that I refer to, I loved very much and listened to The Replacements’ Let it Be very much. I even took an initially ill-advised and haphazard trip to Europe to visit this person and amid all those mixed feelings that had built over a certain period of time, there was a realization that came to me one night in my hostel room.  Maybe it wasn’t a realization so much as a feeling.  For the early part of the trip, like the hero in my own ex-patriate novel, my aunt had put me up in a fine to premium Spanish hotel in the middle of Madrid, where I could drink whiskey and then go out and walk around the city and meet the person I loved and drink wine and whisky and come back to my room and smoke cigarettes out the window into a courtyard, with a dim light on and FoxNews playing lowly on my TV to give the sound of America its due cadence.  However, that luxury ran out justly and I found my own accommodations – rightly so – in hostels around the city.  One night, before I was to go out and drink a beer or two on the street before meeting this object of my desire, I placed Let it Be on my Discman.  My hostel room was empty and as I listened to the blistering cadence and lyrics of “Seen Your Video” I was dumbstruck.  I heard the lyrics “Seen your video/phony rock n’ roll/we don’t wanna know.”  Although I had heard the lyrics before, it was as if I had never paid attention. I knew all of the rock n’ roll tradition that had grown out of this song and this band, but I had never let the song just sink completely over me.  The ragged and blaring guitar first made me want to run out and find a beer to drink to cool myself.  However, I let that initial feeling wear off and I realized that there was more to it and that there was more to my wanting a beer to “cool myself” as I had constantly sought to do.  It was that this song made me feel alive in a way that I had never remembered. Not better or worse than the love I felt at that moment, but different in a way I had never remembered.  It made me want to run out into the streets and embrace everything that was life, which was everything that was true and was false.  I wanted to run into the cool, light October air and watch the night fall in around me and see the lights of the city meet the darkness. I recognized that much of my life had been postured and phony and that anything that reigned me in would always be there and that it was my duty to fight it off in any way I could, but that in the end it would always be there, because that is life for good and bad. Life for good and bad is “phony rock n’ roll.”  We’ve seen it all before and it will always be there, but we can still scream and rail at it like Westerberg does to try to keep it at bay. However, in the end, it is that life that gives us that glorious Westerberg scream that says he isn’t going to die, even though he probably knew he was going to, just like Alex Chilton did.

And this is all true all over the album.  Even months later when I had returned from my Europe trip and distance had turned things for the better, I was feeling myself satisfied (obvious cue to where this was going) with the love I felt, for it had been hard fought and placed at a point of maturity in my own mind and in my own history of feeling.  However, I knew even then that I would still remain unsatisfied in some way because at that time I was living at home with my parents and wanted to be a big voice and be on my own and making it and that’s all I could ever talk about. Even now, with all this past, I still, like I am sure most of us feel, unsatisfied.  Like Westerberg says in the song, “look me in the eyes and tell me I’m satisfied” or, plain and simply “are you satisfied?”  I have never believed that anyone wanted to know anything as much as Westerberg wants to know that he’s satisfied or if the person he is speaking to is satisfied.  I don’t mean to turn to those I know and those who are from my generation and call them out on being satisfied with the same blood-curdling urgency that Westerberg does (although I certainly feel that urgency within me), I simply want to relate.  For again, here, in this song there is that abundance of life.  We are surrounded by good things. I don’t have a lot of money, I have friends, I have freedom, I have youth, I have the desire to create – but I’m not satisfied.  If I had money and nothing to work for to keep my alive, I wouldn’t be satisfied.  Becoming satisfied is becoming to understand yourself better.  It’s not like that recent 30 Rock where Liz Lemon considers “settling.”  Becoming satisfied is finding reality and that’s all that the Replacements were about.  I’m closer to understanding their basic records that understanding myself.

I only briefly want to mention “Sixteen Blue,” which is a classic Replacements song.  It has classic 50’s/60’s chord progressions and a messy Westerberg vocal where at one point he slurs classic lines such as  “your age is the hardest age/everything just drags and drags” and “don’t understand anything sexual.”  The guitar tone is the purest on any Replacements song.  There is something simple and concise about it.  It has the poignancy and noise that Pearl Jam almost sought out but never achieved.

The last arbitrary song mention goes to “Answering Machine,” which, if you want to tie it to my story of distant love before, played a big part in my life. “How do you say goodnight to an answering machine? How do you say I miss you to an answering machine? How do you say its OK to an answering machine?”  You don’t need a long distance romance to find the importance of this song.  The key line comes in the very first line, when Westerberg, never more earnest than in this song sings, “Try and breathe some life into a letter.”  Maybe this song is about trying to leave a message for a person that you love on their answering machine when that love has gone wrong.  Sure.  I’ve been there; we’ve all been there.  Especially now that texts and other online ways of leaving messages are easy ways to relay the insecurities we feel in a relationship.  What this song always was to me was that riddle of communicating with another person.  The symbol of technology and technological advancement is obviously there with the empty space of the answering machine, but this ties into those best parts of Desolation Angels when Kerouac wonders if he will ever be able to connect to another human being in the greatness, sadness and holiness of the world.  Maybe Westerberg didn’t think that profoundly or intend his song to come off as profound – and it surely doesn’t in any traditional sense.  However, this song is nothing if not profound.  It sounds youthful like all of the other songs on the album, but it points out that clear presence of loneliness and isolation in the world, where we can’t even express our satisfaction or dissatisfaction to another person; that desire that clearly lies in our voice or behind our eyes. So, perhaps it wasn’t the Rolling Stones that always capture that impalpable energy of youth, maybe it was the Replacements the whole time, because they were closer to the pulse of life when Westerberg sang “Unsatisfied” than The Stones were when Jagger strutted on Ed Sullivan and pouted “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

Is there a story in all of this? In these anecdotes about Alex Chilton, laudry detergent, old shirts, college, friends, teaching, Thai students, summers and profound loves?  No, there probably isn’t much of a story and I have violated the elementary focus and cornerstone of writing.  However, whatever this is, it has love, death, travel and the attempt at human connection.  So maybe there is a story somewhere and, at the very least, there is life, which is what we are striving after.

And believe me, I don’t have one and I am not satisfied.  But you’ve already seen that video, haven’t you?  Damn those Replacements.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Musta Got Lost

Alright, it's been a little bit between posts and I do apologize for the delay.  I've been working very long hours as I prepare to leave my job at the end of this week and it can get somewhat draining.  This weekend I also spent some time with my family in Atlantic City for my sister's twenty-first birthday.  I've never been to Atlantic City before, but I get its charm as a promise of an America that once existed at one point - the northeastern oceanside oasis.  However, there remains something ultimately American about its failing commerce and community butting right up against large and bright casino buildings and hotels.  Just a strange feeling overall.  It was a fun weekend and on the way back, I thought of a new post about the Replacements that I want to put up this week.  It is a little strange to right about the Replacements what with Alex Chilton just dying, but I feel that it is time to lift the veil on my thoughts of one of my favorite bands - perhaps the band that can speak best for me.

Anyway, in order to fill space, I thought we'd do a little Good, The Bad, The Ugly:

First, The Good:

- Obviously, the NCAA tournament.  The games have been literally insane.  I spent much of Sunday afternoon pulling my hair out amid the chiming of slot machines while I watched the genius of the Tennessee vs. Michigan State game unfold.  We have an up for grabs Final Four that could go in a variety of directions - namely four - but I see a Michigan State vs. West Virginia Final.  Something about Butler in the championship game doesn't seem right. Maybe in a few. And we all hate Duke.

- Eating this fish platter my dad ordered at a restaurant:

- Dwyane Wade's line from last night: 32 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks.

- The NBA playoffs coming up in general.  They are going to be legitimately exciting.

- Going to a great Knicks vs. Nuggets game last week and getting drunk in great seats.

- The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO.

- Warm weather.

- Jogging through Atlantic City away from the boardwalk.

- "Good Intentions Paving Company" by Joanna Newsom

- She and Him, Volume 2

- Elliot Smith's From a Basement on a Hill. Seriously underrated.

- Mad Men coming back in about six months.

- How to Make it in America. Baffling, entertaining, like unoffensive air just blowing across your face when you are exhausted on Sunday evening. That is what TV was invented for.

- The Nets just won their tenth game.  I like their young players.  They can turn it around. The kids playing in the park like Brook Lopez.

Now, the Bad:

- Breaking Bad. Nah, its actually great, but I just don't like the attention it takes from Mad Men.

- Getting five "Run, Forest, run" heckles while running on the boardwalk at Atlantic City.

- Baylor letting Duke win that game yesterday.

- The NFL Draft is now four days long.

- Blitzen Trapper album has not leaked yet.  I'm going to buy it anyway.

- I did not make it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon/Createspace Breakthrough Novel Award.  I'll post the comments when they come out.  This is not really "bad," more "indifferent."

- How to Make it in America going off the air.  I love that show.  Not really, I just want to upset people who hate it.

- Seeing actual human feces on the subway stairs.  Always surprising, always bad.

Finally, the Ugly:

No, but seriously, this week I am going to try to bring you two new music posts; the first podcast, now that I have my theme music all worked out and ready to clip in front of the podcast; and just general greatness as usual.

But for now, I am going to leave you with the next installment of From Here to The Last Mound of Dirt. We are picking back up in Part II, Section II of the novel.  The narrative has now shifted to the perspective of the limo driver who is driving the O'Donnell family to the cemetary for the burial. The driver's name is Peter Kosciuzko and he is a distant acquaintance of Ben O'Donnell and the rest of the family. As he drives the family to the burial, he ruminates on the nature of his own family, families in general and the history of the town they are all from.

Without further adieu, the next insallment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt:

Peter Kosciuzko waited at the light at he intersection of Main Street and Gnarled Hollow Road.  As he waited, he itched his forehead with the hard, plastic bridge of his driver’s cap.  Peter pushed his hair back and then placed his cap back on his head. He looked out the window and saw a Blue Point Brewery sign lit up in the window of the Country Corner.  He would stop in there for a toasted lager once he was finished with work.  After driving to and from a funeral, he enjoyed sitting at a bar and drinking a dark, somewhat sweet ale. When he rested his lean forearms on the curved wooden edge of the bar counter, it eased his mind away from the death and mourning he was used to and brought it closer to the jagged, sticky surface of life.  Now, however, he had to steer the funeral procession through the town and out to the cemetary in Calverton – the military cemetary.

    The light at the intersection was the longest one in town.  The traffic on Main Street was much busier than the traffic going around the bend on Gnarled Hollow up to Old Town towards the high school and the Bryant Funeral Home.  Mr Kosciuzko’s family had lived in town for generations.  His grandfather was a young man when there were still farms on Gnarled Hollow and the tire factory stood across from the intersection where he now idled at.

    The light turned green and Peter eased the limo into the left turn.  It was important to ease a limo into a turn – a long slow roll of the wheel.  Peter had driven taxis, limos, coach buses and now limos again.  In between driving limos and buses, he had been a teacher of English, only briefly, at Nassau Community College.  Though he liked to imagine himself as a patient man, he did not have the patience to teach.  His thoughtful nature was best suited to a more private setting; to the front seat of a luxury sedan, where he could collect his thoughts and have them to himself as the yellow lines, mailboxes and house lights stretched and passed.

    Peter pressed gently on the gas to ease the limo up the hill of Main Street, which cut through the center of town.  The glare of the sun caught his eye and he had to pull down the mirror to block it.  He knew the roads so well that no maneuver felt dangerous to him, no small movement made him lost control of the car.  They passed Ben O’Donnell’s office on the left and the firehouse next to it.  The firehouse’s red, electric banner read the temperature: 68°. Peter Kosciuzko glanced in the rear view mirror at Ben O’Donnell.  He’d been at the party Ben and Connor had thrown for the firefighters.  It was after the old Setauket post office burned down.  It was a small post office, but it was the first one – an historical landmark.  And for a town that valued history so much, it was devastating.  So Ben O’Donnell threw a party for the firefighters.  It seemed like a bad idea, to get the town firefighters drunk, but somehow he got away with it.  He had that charm about him.  Mr. Kosciuzko knew from sharing drinks with Ben at the corner that if Ben O’Donnell grinned and said, “Hey, take a night off,” a man was more than inclined to listen; even the chief.  There was no food at the party, just cases and cases of beer.  They hooked up a record player to the station PA and played music.  Ben insisted on Billy Joel.  “Born to Run” had just come out and all the firefighters loved that.  Peter had loved that album too – Bruce Springsteen smiling and looking to his left with a scruffy beard. A handsome musician looking to the side like that made him feel that there was some answer out there, that there was a be to free; to be like the air. 

The party had spilt out to the street and even some of the cops pulled in to have a few. Rose O’Donnell wasn’t there.  She was at home watching their baby.  Ben was showing pictures of her to the firefighters and the cops with one beer in his hand and a second bottle of beer tucked into his pocket, making a little patch of moisture on his pocket.

They turned right at the intersection of Main Street and Old Main Street.  Peter Kosciuzko looked in the rear view mirror.  He saw Ben O’Donnell with his nose no more than a centimeter from the window.  He looked pensive, his pointed jaw was working and it gave his face a muscular look – like an actor.  Peter’s favorite actor had been Paul Newman and he thought that Ben looked like him, maybe a little more gaunt.  Ben’s jaw was less square too, but there was something going on behind the chinline and the face – there was character there.  Ben’s pensive look made Peter think that there might be some similarity between them, that they shared some inclination for wistful thinking.  Peter felt goosebumps rise on his skin and he knew that they were not the same. A school bus switched gears and groaned past the limo.  Mr Kosciuzko was not a social man, but he found himself in social settings, drawn to social men like Ben O’Donnell.  He liked a man that could tell a good story, though he could not tell a good story himself. There was a time at the Corner when Ben had been there with Connor – it was before the incident between them – and was retelling one of his night’s out with Billy Joel.  They were sitting at the bar near the wall, while Peter had sat opposite them near the bathrooms.
“So Billy knocks them dead. Finishes with ‘Only the Good Die Young.’ I was feeling good on the side of the stage talking to a blonde who was from Baltimore, no, Annapolis – she had that marble mouth way of talking.  Anyway, she was pretty – ˝

Conner put his hand on his shoulder and Ben pushed it off.

“But nothing to compare to Rose.  I just like playing around with these girls.  Billy comes off stage and says we’ve got to go to a party afterward at Studio 54.  I know I should be figuring out a train home, but I can’t say no.”

Ben took a drink from his pint.

“You see,” Connor had said, “you’re going to drive Rose crazy if you keep staying out.  Plus you can’t still be riding your motorcycle when you get like that. You’ve got to think about the family.”
Ben turned in his seat to Connor. “You did spend too much time with mom.”

Connor shook his head and took a drink.

“Anyway, we get to the bar and it’s the same crowd.  People doing blow all over the place and you know how I can’t stand to see that stuff.  But I just like the energy in a place like that.  Billy had two blondes with him – one was really fantastic looking – and walks up with Chevy Chase.”

Mr Kosciuzko had leaned into the bar to hear better, the waist of his jeans pinching his hips.

“From Saturday Night?” Connor said.

“That’s right.  So he comes up and Billy introduces him to me.  He’s a good looking guy.  I tell him that I like the Weekend Update stuff.”

“And what did he say?”

“He pretended to spill his drink and then gave me this big smile and said, ‘Thank you very little.’ I laughed because I liked the line and told him that Akroyd was wrong, that he wasn’t such a smug bastard.”

Connor laughed.

“His eyes got wide and then I slapped him on the back and we had a laugh.”

“Did you get to talking?”

“Yeah we swapped some jokes and he told me some of the ideas they were working on.”

“Was Belushi there?”

“No, I would’ve loved to talk to that guy.”

“Anything going to come out of it, Benny?”

Ben shrugged and finished his beer. He exhaled and stretched his back. “I’ll just keep talking, keep drinking, keep making jokes, keep working at our little practice here to keep Rose happy and then hopefully I’ll be earning my keep the right way.”  He tussled Connor’s hair and stood up on the rails of the bar stool. “Another, brother?”

Connor held up his glass.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Waste of Time

On the day after the momentous passing of Barack Obama's Healthcare Bill, it is only fitting that I put up a post about the top ten syndicated television shows of all time, according to me.  Why put it up? Why not expound upon the ripples and effects of President Obama's Healthcare Bill? 

One, I do not have an extensive knowledge enough about the details of the bill in order to provide you with an informed opinion that can also verge on the humorous, which is the whole point of what I write. 

Two, you do not come here for that.  That is, unless I get any feedback that says you do, in which case, I will be glad to start doing more homework.

Third, I wanted to write up a funny/pointless list for you to look at.

Fourth, I spent much of my day last Thursday watching basketball (and sporadically on the subsequent days of the weekend as well) and I realized how many damn shows are in syndication and how in strange way, syndicated TV shows have formed a connect the dot timeline of my life and provided a communication touchstone between myself and other people - as strange as that is.

Five, the next phase of the Amazon Createspace Breakthrough Novel Award results are announced later today and of course I believe I am going to be in the next round. So, even against my better instincts, I am somewhat excited and can't focus on something heady.

Sixth, I am feeling sort of lazy and want to come up with some more substantive posts for you all.

In any event, here is the list of the Top Ten Syndicated TV Shows of All Time According to Me:

10. Amen - This was a little known show from the 80's that was somewhat of a Jeffersons spin-off only because it featured Sherman Helmsley aka George Jefferson.  This show used to be on at about 6 o'clock in the morning when I was in high school so I used to watch it as I groggily showered, got dressed, threw on a brown skull cap and got ready to go to school to crack jokes, write alter-ego names on my tests and quizzes, and brood over what literary fame was bound to come my way.  Boy, did I have no idea what college was going to be about.  But the show itself was great. Sherman Helmsley played a character called Deacon Earnest Frye who was part of a church community in Philadelphia.  He was always coming up with money making schemes (a favorite trait of any of my TV characters) and trying to get his daughter to marry a rich guy.  In the end his harebrained plans always fell through and he got his comeuppance.  Great concept for a show: corrupt church figure; great themes: trying to get money and marry your daughter to a rich man; great overall look: late 80's fuzzy greys, greens and browns.  This eased me pleasantly through many dull pink and blue grey sunrises during eleventh and twelveth grades (2001-2003).

9. Three's Company - These first three entries are all directly related to my waking up experience in high school so just stay buckled in.  Obviously this is a classic set-up with John Ritter and his two female roommates Suzanne Somers and Joyce Dewit.  I mean you have the all-time great TV, movie and life themes here: two guys and a girl (Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place); a guy pretending he is gay to get by on rent (see Williamsburg, Brooklyn); sexual innuendos galore and misunderstandings (Seinfeld); the classic landlord threatening you kick you out stick (see origins in Abott & Costello and again see Williamsburg, Brooklyn).  Needless to say, all of these sexual innuendos and landlords trying to kick fake gay guys who are culinary students had a great affect on my comedy sensibilities as a 14 and 15 year old.  Many people pay attention to Suzanne Somers as the original blonde, but you can't overlook the replacement blondes later on in the show.  Classic roles such as Chisty' (Suzanne Somers) cousin and a blonde nurse who is serious but unlucky in love.  This is a realist comedy through and through.  Very influential in my headphones on, Led Zeppelin cranked up, enjoying weed a little too much phase (2000-2002).

8. Coach - Craig T. Nelson was already a legend from his epic performances in the Poltergeist series.  Poltergeist alone cemented his legacy as top movie dad (protecting his family from ghosts and contronting his boss for building homes on an indian burial ground), football fan (St. Louis Rams), and calming onscreen presence (again, protecting his family from ghosts).  Coach mixed all of those things together: he was a decent dad but overprotective of his daughter (legitimately early 90's hot), he was a football coach (Hayden Fox of the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles) and calming onscreen presence (he lived in a wood cabin or something that was all kinds of early 90's light brown and purple).  This show really had an effect on me in my early teens.  This was on back to back at 6:30 and 7:00 AM before junior high school and I followed all the exploits of Dauber and the name of Jerry Van Dyke's character. Jerry Van Dyke taught me what an alcoholic probably acted like and talked like, which I can never forget.  This show was also great because it featured tons of cameos from football players, excellent stock football footage of real teams used as footage of the Minnesota State team and a picture perfect contrived later season twist on the show when Craig T. gets a job for an expansion NFL team called the Orlano Breakers.  Overall perfection with some of the best early 90's footage known to man - real send into outer space kind of stuff.  Can you believe it is only #8?

7. Scrubs - This may not be a fan favorite because of Zach Braff's unlikeability, but I can't deny the power Scrubs held over me in college.  During my senior year, when my ability to watch terrible movies on TV was at its peak (OK maybe some of my friends can prove otherwise), Scrubs reruns stole the mantle.  Hungover on a Sunday? Scrubs on Comedy Central. Nursing a hangover on Saturday evening? Scrubs on at 7:00 on Fox 5.  Dinner mixed in? Sure. Is Zach Braff annoying? Yes, he is.  Is the show technically still running? Yes, I think its corpse is propped up on some network. Did the Dr. Cox character become too popular for what it actually was? Yes. Was it sort of funny? Absolutely.  See, Scrubs is a tormented television show in syndication, constantly drawing complex emotions from viewers.  That is why it had to make my list. It is a risky pick at number 7, I know.  However, they did always have sexy women as guest stars and the character Elliot usually showed a decent amount of cleavage and caused many internal debates about whether or not she was actually hot.  (Ed. note: I'm already starting to feel terrible about this post.)

6. Wings - Sleeper pick, but you can't deny it.  You  have vintage Tony Shaloub before 13teen Ghosts, and Monk; you have that blonde southern woman Helen who was hot in a "1993 very white in a light pair of denim jeans" way; you have Tim Daly in a strange post Diner 80's heydey when he could have been someone (like that whole cast - man what a movie) and his latter day Soprano's punching bag role; you had Steven Weber as Tim Daly's idiot brother who got into trouble with women and schemes and who later went on to have a kind of offbeat sitcom called The Tim Daly Show which was strangely enjoyable; and you have Thomas Hayden Church in a classic role as the repairman, Lowell, who had a strange exit from the show: Eventually, Lowell is forced to leave Nantucket and enter the Witness Protection Program after witnessing a mob hit. Although it was hard for him to leave Nantucket and the people he knew all his life, Lowell decided he would prefer to go into hiding rather than let a guilty man go free and possibly murder again. These are the type of ideas that define genius.  Just think about the pitch: "OK its kind of like Cheers but actually in a small diner at an airport on Nantucket and two brothers run the airline." Why didn't you or I think of that and make money off of seven seasons on TV?

5. The Office - You may be thinking that its a little high for being so new to syndication, however the prevelance of The Office on TV now is insane.  The Office has rapidly risen up this mental list for the past four months. You can't click two channels without it being on.  Plus, watching it through syndication made me realize how genius it is. You have to appreciate it for the background character Creed alone.  Plus it is cozy in some strange way.  I know that Gervais' original is superior because Gervais himself is actually a comedic genius with a great insight to the human condition, but this one has Jim and Pam.

4. The Cosby Show - It may be too high on the list because it is not the best for overall quality.  However,  you have to love its duration as being a touchstone of mid-day television.  During the day in college, I used to chill to a little Cosby Show when I had break in class. I am thinking specifically of the spring of my junior year (2006).  You also have to love it as the quintessential vision of the 80's.  There is nothing that looks more 80's or feels more 80's than the Cosby Show. I will take no other arguments.  The range of the siblings on the show was great; you have Cos eating up scenes as well as his obsession with his kids giving him money and paying for things; you have Phylisha Rashad (gotta hand it to Ahmad Rashad - a long time NBA on NBC stalwart and former NFL pro) as the smoking hot mom; and you have classic 80's babe Lisa Bonet in her prime.  You get valuable family and cultural lessons as well as Cosby "baw bawing" and hamming it up? Is it a little heavy handed? Yes. So what, what else did you expect from the 80's?

3. Simpsons - We all know the woe that has come to the Simpsons in recent years and I don't need to expand on it.  It has lost me.  I don't blame any of the writers because it is damn hard to right in the same constraints and characters for 20 years.  However, everybody had the Simpsons as a touchstone not only in its normal Sunday night spot, but in the classic after school spot.  You come home from practice and Simpsons is on back to back on Fox from 7-8, every night. You come home from sneaking booze with your friends and its on again at 11:30 PM.  You go to school the next day and recite the jokes to your friends and try to get one up on your teachers during class. It was essential. We all know this and now we can still see faint glimpses of it when an "old" Simpsons episode comes on Fox at 7:30 or 12:30

2. Seinfeld - What? Seinfeld at number 2? Wait until #1 then.  We all know that Seinfeld has somewhat overtaken the Honeymooners for setting the bar for syndication. Honeymooners was too far before my time for me to give it consideration here.  Seinfeld at 11:00 o'clock on Fox is  like a ritual that will never be changed.  You can turn on any episode and find yourself laughing hysterically or muttering, "I forgot about that one." It is truly an strange phenomena of an art form or commodity. It has so sunken in with our social and cultural psyches (then again I am speaking from a totall white perspective here) that Seinfeld is almost merged with our own brains.  It touches on all of the classic comedy tropes - fringe characters, stupid bosses, landlords, girlfriends, neighborhood rivals, harebrained schemes - and takes them in clever and, in later seasons, bizarre directions.  It has the essential 90's look that will never be topped because it is so singular an iconic.  What else is there left to do with this show but to try and mock it at whatever chance we get? Why, because it was so good an because it is so entrenched in our strange culture.  And that's what you do with anything on a pedestal.

1. Saved by the Bell - The most instructive television show for anyone who grew up in the late 80's and 90's.  My pulse is not so much on that age group right now, but I still believe you get to Saved by the Bell before Seinfeld. The Zach Morris character is the epitome of who you want to be growing up: slick jokester with tons of harebrained schemes, preppy bad boy who has the hottest girlfriend - I mean come on. The show takes place in California and all the scenes are very school-centric, which is so relatable. You had great babes that straddled 80's and 90's hot.  In fact, the whole show successfully transitioned from the 80's to the 90's.  There are classic spin-offs like College Years and that one season that took place at the beach.  Each era of the show is easily identifiable and we all watched it before school and after school, because it was always on TBS or TNT or WPIX.  We all talked about it and used it as the essential reference point for navigating through school (whoa, Domino. I think you are going overboard) no matter how feverently we may deny it.  How many times did you or some other stupid person that you knew and loved turn around a chair, sit down with their body facing the chair back and go "Hey, guys, I'm A.C. Slater"?  Happened all the time.  And, finally, they had the best and most aptly named character of all time: a principal with the name Mr. Belding.  Bell Ding!  The name of the show was Saved by the Bell! How are we not living off the riches of syndication?  This show epitomizes what syndication is, what it is used for, and how it defines the communication of American youth.

So, hopefully, what this list does is show you how many cultural touchstones (er, maybe a stretch for some of these - but hey lots of people watched them!) were based off of stupid ideas.  This should give us all credit to go out there and make millions on our own stupid ideas.  We can do it! And, in the worst case scenario, maybe we can come up with a show like Arrested Development, which nobody watched.

Before I go, I want to point to two recent articles and one piece of literary news:

Article 1 is from the New York Times, which is Paul Westerberg's comments on Alex Chilton and his death.  It is a short article with no real substance aside from the fact that it is interesting to read Westerberg right about Chilton.

Article 2 is from Bill Simmons' own webpage.  It is a running log he did of two NBA games from last night.  His sentiment here reflects my own post-NBA All-Star game thoughts.

Finally, the writer Sherman Alexie won this year's PEN/Faulkner Award. I read some of his work in a relgion class in college when we were covering Native Americans.  He is a decent writer and they even made a movie about one of his stories - fairly entertaining as well.  I'm better than him so that award should be mine in just a few years anyway.

That's it for now.  I'll have more stuff up here this week.  Namely a piece I have in mind matching up Joanna Newsom's new album and the new She & Him album and comparing Zoe Deschanel and Joanna Newsom as vocalist.  Also working on the podcast stuff and hopefully the first one will be up this week and then go clockwork after that.

Always new content. Just stick with me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Greatest Day

I intended to post this little piece on Thursday evening, however things began to get carried away with how good the games were and how long my writing became so I had to postpone it until today.  This is supposed to serve as a bit of a running commentary similar to what Bill Simmons put up on ESPN, but mine has the benefit of hindsight and editorializing, so in the end I think it will be more entertaining.  This past Thursday was far and away the best opening day to an NCAA Tournament of all time.  The level of excitement and the number of close games was astounding - it was literally one after another.  The first day of the tournament is already one of the best sports days of all time, but this took it to another level.  Combine that with a Heat vs. Magic game on TNT that went into overtime and new episodes of the Office and 30 Rock and this was the most TV I have watched in a long time.  Needless to say, my brain was fried the next day at work (8 days left).  In any event, let's get to my log of the action.  I had a meeting in the morning, so I was a little late to the first games, but that doesn't really matter:

2:30 PM

- The early afternoon games have already been exciting. Notre Dame loses to Old Dominion. A classic 12 seed versus 5 seed upset. Villanova is in danger of being upset by Robert Morris as well in the always embarassing 15 seed over 2 seed game.

- Scottie Reynolds (Villanova) looks tentative and Villanova continues its slump. Apparently Scottie was benched for a team infraction.  Benching your star player for a tournament game because of a team infraction - unheard of! Who says college coaching is dead?

- At the three minute mark now. Nova is starting to get calls on Scottie Reynolds' drives. 2:10 left, Scottie makes two FTs to cut the Robert Morris lead to 55-53.

- Meanwhile, Florida and BYU is in OT.  They are tied at 87 and Florida has the ball with five seconds left. They run a terrible last play for a tip in off the glass and that game is going to double OT.

- Robert Morris turns it over and Reynolds gets another call at 1:48 on a reach in foul.  Reynolds makes the first FT. 11 of 11 from the line. 55-54.  He makes the second.  We are tied up.

- Robert Morris gets it across half and now Nova gets called for a foul off the ball. 1:34 left.  Karon Abraham, 85% free throw shooter misses the first shot. Classic.  He makes the second. 56-55.

- Reynolds gets a screen and drives through the lane.  He gets tied up but he flails and gets another foul call.  Reynolds goes to the line.  He ties it with the first. Misses the second. 56-56.

- On the other end, Abraham drives, cradles and pumps the ball back - beautiful layup! 58-56 Robert Morris. However, Nova comes right back down and lays it in. 58-58.

- Abraham brings the ball across half, drives and puts up a floater that misses.  Nova gets the rebound, Reynolds takes the ball cross court and calls time. After the timeout, Scottie holds the ball until there are ten seconds left on the clock.  A high screen comes, but Reynolds gets trapped.  He scrambles to drive the lane and lays the ball up only to have it swatted into the seats.  Nova ball underneath with 0.9 remaining. I start to feel guilty seeing the sun outside.

- Backside lob by Nova. Perfectly executed, but its blocked by Robert Morris! We are going to OT.  Two overtime games in the first two hours of the tournament.  This is unheard of!

- Nova strikes first in OT. 60-58.

- After a Robert Morris miss, Nova feeds it inside to one of their big men (what? I'm not an expert. I don't know everyone. That's what I don't work for ESPN apparently) for a pretty bank shot.  Nova is up 62-58.  This looks like a classic tournament "favorite was sleeping for most of the game, but woke up in the end to avoid the upset" swing.

2:56 PM:

- Meanwhile, in the Florida vs. BYU game, BYU has pulled away from Florida 97-90, which looks like it will be the final. (In hindsight, I am bummed I missed this game because I heard how BYU's star Jimmer Fridette - yes, his real name - put on quite a show, scoring 40 plus.)

- In the second slot of games, 13 seed Murray State is playing 4 seed Vanderbilt close and winning 17-16 with about 11 minutes left.  14 seed Sam Houston is playing 3 seed Baylor tight as well, leading 8-3 at the 17:20 mark.  These kind of scores happen in a 3/14 or 4/13 game.  In the first half, the lower seed surprises the favorite until the favorite wakes up and pulls way late in the first half or early in the second half.

- Back to Nova/Robby Mo.  Nova has gone up 6 after two FTs and looks like they will take the game. Then, Robert Morris makes two free throws to get the lead back to 4. They benefit from more sloppy Nova play and get the ball back with 2:19 left.  Abraham jacks a three and misses, but Nova fouls on the rebound and sends Dallas Green to the line.  He clanks the first, but nails the second. 64-61 with 1:45 remaining.

- Reynolds holds the ball and the shot clock is down to 9.  Sloppy play ensues and Redding (Villanova) throws a up a desperate pass at Reynolds, who pumps and drills a three! Just his second FG.  He is 2 of 15 for the game. Ouch. 67-61.

- Robert Morris quickly makes a layup and the score is 67-63 with 52 seconds left.  Robert Morris tried to tieup Nova. One ref calls a jump, the other a foul.  Its ruled a foul and Nova goes to the line. The Robert Morris coach's head is about to explode. He actually fakes leaving the game, but comes back.  What did we do to deserve this basketball gods?  Stokes (Villanova) makes the first FT and misses the second. 68-63 Nova.

- Robert Morris takes it down and Abraham tkaes a shot through a double team and gets bailed by a foul call. He makes two FTs. 68-65. In other scores, the Baylor/Sam Houston and Vandy/Murray State games are still close at the 13 minute and 6 minute marks respectively.

-  Nova inbounds and the ball is stolen by Robert Morris!  They make the quick layup. 68-67 with 35.5 seconds left.  Robert Morris has no timeouts left. This is insane. I will need at least 60 beers today to keep pace with the excitement.

-  Nova breaks the Robby Mo press perfectly for a wide open layup for Yarou. However, Abraham chases the play down and fouls Yarou before he can convert.  Yarou makes both FTs.  70-67 with 28.8 left.

- Robert Morris inbounds and Abraham breaks the defense for an open layup but is rejected! Nova gets the loose ball and pushes the ball out to an open Redding who doesn't take the wide open layup! He chooses instead to dribble the ball and run down the clock.  Robby Mo fouls!  Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery are baffled at the commentators booth.  I haven't heard Verne this puzzled since he did play by play for Happy Gilmore's first PGA event.

- Redding misses the first FT. Classic.  He makes the second.  71-67. Robert Morris pushes the ball up court and Abraham chucks a long three.  He nails it! 71-70 with ten seconds left!

- Nova is fouled immediately and Reynolds goes to the line.  He is 2/15 from the field and 13/14 from the line.  He makes both shots. 73-70 Nova.

- Robert Morris has the final shot, but in a poorly executed final play they miss a long three.  Villanova escapes and Bill Raftery tells us that Robert Morris only lost on the scoreboard. How true.

-Meanwhile, Murrary State and Vandy are as close as it can be. Murray State is up 33-31 with 2 minutes remaining in the first half and Sammy Houston is still playing Baylor tight. Sammy Morris is up 17-16 with 8:36 left in the first.

- Sam Houston has a player on their team that wears goggles.  Haven't seen those in awhile.  In fact, his name is "Goggles" Clavell.  Goggles + Upset Special = Must Have.  Baylor ties it up with an Anthony "Tony" Jones dunk.

- Sam Houston steals, Ray Murray takes the ball down and misses a layup. Baylor with terrific ball movement and another vicious slam by "Large Pie" Tony Jones.  20-18 Baylor.

- Ray Murray clanks a three for Sam Houston.  They are 1/11 from three so far. Not a good trend.  Rebound by Sam Houston.  Brown passes to "Goggles" Clavell.  He makes the layup! And one.  21-20 Sammy Houston.  They steal the ball from Baylor and make another good pass inside. Basket interference. 23-20.

- Greg Gumble switches us to the tip of Kansas State vs. North Texas.

- At the half, Murray Brothers State leads Vandy 36-30.

- K. State is up 3 early. Pace of the game is extremely fast in the early going. 5-0 K. State after a baby hook.






- Oops. Took a little break to set up my pod-casting recorer.  A Tascam DR-07.  I'm going to use this thing to bring you the most innane, yet interesting podcasts invented by man.  That last phrase has probably been said by over one million idiots in the 20-50 range.  Large age range, but still. So, for an update:

           - K. State on a huge run to open up a 30-17 lead.
           - Murray State leading Vandy 51-50 with 7:56 left.
           - Baylor up 34-37 on Sammy Houst with 17 minutes left.
           - St. Mary's and Richmond have tipped off.  7 seed Richmond Spiders are up 19-17 on 10 seed
             St. Mary's. All the games so far today have  been tight. Absolutely unheard of.  It fits in with
             what the analysts said: this year's tourny would be wide open with no true dominant teams
             besides Kansas and Kentucky and even they aren't so traditionally dominant.

- K. State may be the first team to win big today.  I did not see one of their games during the year, but their guards are controlling the gaeme nicely. 15 of their 35 points coming from the backcourt.

- RepoMen.  Repossessing organs.  Forrest Whitaker and Jude Law.  "You and me, we always gonna be Repo."  I am onboard while being simultaneously baffled.

- Pullen (K. State) drives and makes a terrific pass to Kelly behind his head. Kelly can't handle and lay the ball in. Shame. Meanwhile, #17 on North Texas looks like a young Jay-Z. (Speaking of which, last night in Time Out there was a Brooklyn vs. Manhattan quiz. Who is more prototypical New Yorker? Woody Allen or Jay-Z? Come on. More choices?)

- Clemente on K. State steps back and swishes a long three. Clemente and Pullen. Important names to remember because guards make an NCAA tourny run for a team. Also good interior play, low turnovers and good defense - so really everything done well.

- Peter Venkman State still  up on Vandy and Sammy Houston takes takes a 42-40 lead on Baylor with 14 minutes left. Back to K. State and North Texas, Clemente nails another three.  K. State is hot.

*Side note: how good was Dan Akroyd at making up names for movies.  Ghostbusters has a slew of amazing names and Spies Like Us is a clinic in hilarious named characters.  Look up movies Akroyd has written and you will find amazingly named characters.  It is a dying art in comedy and movies.

- Watching Sam Houston  play Baylor, I have to wonder why there is no BBQ chain called Sammy Houston's.  Couldn't you see a Sammy Houston's in Times Square next to a store selling Heath Ledger Joker shirts, or on an Interstate 10 rest stop? No?

- K. State takes a 41-25 lead into the half on North Texas.  Pullen and Clemente have 11 apiece.

- Undercover Boss is just a sorry replacement for the seminal TV reality show, My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss. Ah, 2004. Simpler days.

- And Lamar Odom is everywhere. He wins a ring with the Lakers, marries a Kardashian and all his endorsment offers come in.   I always liked the guy.

- We're back in New Orleans watching Sammy Houston's Baby-back Ribs take on the Baylor Thoroughbreds - er, Bears. Sorry, the colors confused me.

- commercial.  I know a dozen people who got jobs at the Ladders in the golden employment age of 2007.  Sadly, I was not hired when I applied in the fall/winter of 2007. Sadly?

- Baylor hits a long 2. Tied at 46.  Two minutes left and Peter Venkman State is leading Vandy in San Jose.

- Festus Ezeli misses two FTs with Vandy trailing 62-60.  Murray State misses a layup and Vandy gets the rebound. They call a TO with 1:55 left.

- Tony Easley on Murray State gets called for a block and fouls out. That puts Vandy star player A.J. Ogilvy on the line.  He hits the first and misses the second. 62-61. Murray State calls TO with 1:36 remaining.

- Shot clock winding down and Murray State's Danero Thomas makes a clutch fadeaway jumper. Vandy answers immediately with a nicely executed Ogilvy layup.

- Meanwhile, Baylor has pulled ahead of Sammy Houston's Slow Cooked Brisket, but Sammy comes back with another order of Pork Belly. 50-49.

- Murray State 64. Vandy 63. 49 seconds left. Murray State is moving the ball to run down the clock.  Shot clock at 10.  Dribble drive by Isacc Miles (Murray State) and a baseline pass is intercepted by Vandy.  Timeout with 22 seconds left.  As Verne Lundquist would say, "Oh my!"

- Vandy sets up a perfect backdoor through Ogilvy. He dishes it to Jermaine Beal who goes for a dunk and is fouled. No basket. Beal makes his frist. 64-64.  Murray State tries to freeze Beal with a timeout.  Meanwhile, Murray State's team name is the Racers.  I like it.

- Beal sinks the second. 65-64 Vandy. 12 seconds left. No timeouts for Murrary State.  They bring the ball down and miss a long three.  The ball bounces off Vandy.  Murray State ball with 4 seconds left.  Timeout Vandy.  Murray State will take the ball out underneath.

- Murray State inbounds the ball. Isacc Miles gets it.  He trips up on the dribble and passes it to Danero Thomas who takes a dribble and step in, pulls up and NAILS IT AS TIME EXPIRES! 66-65 Murray State.  The upset. The Murray Brothers are going to the second round, even the brother who played Freddy Rumsen on Mad Men! Jesus, another great ending.

-Back in New Orleans there is 3:20 left and Sammy Houston and Baylor are tied at 55-55.  Sammy Houst has the ball. They spread the Baylor zone and miss a jumper.  Baylor comes back with a nice pass to the interior for a dunk. 57-55.

- Sammy Houston loses it at the other end.  Baylor comes back and Lacedarius Dunn makes a turnaround jumper.  Gotta love Lacedarius! 59-55.

- Sam Houston makes a bad decision to go for a long three that clanks off the rim.  1:24 remaining.  They foul Baylor and they miss at the line, but Sam Houston throws the ball away. Lacedarius Dunn comes back with a dunk. 61-55.  Sammy Houston misses another shot and fouls.  The wheels may be coming off here. Dunn makes two FTs. 63-55 Baylor with a minute left.

- Quick pass underneath for Sammy and a layup.  But Baylor comes right back and Dunn is fouled.  Dick Enberg (the legend) tells us that "Goggles" Clavell had a great game.  Dunn makes both FTs. 65-67 with 46.6 left.

- Clavell picks up a miss and makes the layup. He is fouled! And one chance. Lacedarius fouls out. Clavell misses the FT and Sammy fouls immediately. 65-59 with 30 seconds left.  Will there be BBQ in round 2? Baylor makes 1 of 2 at the line.

- Crow on Sam Houston misses a 3. Baylor fouled. 66-59 with 21.4 left. Baylor makes both. 68-59. Sam Houston misses another three and Baylor dribbles out the clock.  68-59 final.

- Back to Providence. St. Mary's and Richmond. St. Mary's 41, Richmond 40. 16:51 left. We are with Raftery and Lundquist, which is a great commentator pairing.

- St. Mary's takes a 43-40 lead. Gonzalvez (yes, correct spelling) on Richmond with some nice dribbling, gets inside and makes a tough layup.






- Back from the News Break between early sessions and the late sessions as well as some dinner.  Missed the ending of the St. Mary's and Richmond game, but I heard that St. Mary's was extremely impressive.  A team to watch for in round 2.

- Now we get UNLV and Northern Iowa who are underway and tied at 8.  A classic 8 vs. 9 matchup between two historical rivals.

- Northern Iowa is setting the tone early for some offensive glass dominance.  10-10 as CBS takes us back to Providence for Georgetown vs. Ohio. I caught a couple Georgetown games this year and they have looked either dominant or terrible.  It hinges on Greg Monroe, the talented and enigmatic center.

- Ohio moving the ball well and Tommy Freeman from Muncie, IN makes a 3. Ohio 3, G'Town 0. Julian Vaugh on G'Town answers with a nice post move and lay-in. 3-2. Basset of Ohio nails a jumper. 5-2. Freeman misses for G'Town and Ohio pushes it. They move the all around the point and find an open shot. Miss. They look extremely sharp, though.

- G'Town throws away an inbounds pass. Basset with a breakaway layup. 7-2 with 16:30 left. G'Town misses again. They do not look good at all.

-8-2 with 16:00 left and Wright on G'Town makes a 3. 8-5. That might wake G'Town  up.

- A couple of sloppy possessions by both teams. G'Town in transition. Wright bobbles it but pushes the ball to Monroe just in time. Monroe makes a layup and is fouled.  He misses the and one and Ohio comes back with a 3. 11-8 with 14:30 remaining.

- Monroe posts up and spins baseline for a reverse layup.  Very pretty move. 11-10 Ohio.

-G'Town inbounds and Hollis Thompson makes a corner three. 13-11 Georgetown.

-Meanwhile, UNLV is holding off Northern Iowa 24-20.  That may be a close one as well. Kentucky already has a 15 point lead on East Tennessee State University. Over.

- G'Town comes back with a transition layup by Wright and then Ohio executed a picture perfect baby hook.

- Back from break, Wright has the ball and Georgetown is in transition. Ohio defender strops him  but then leaves his assignment. Wright takes the long, open three. Nails it. Ohio moves the ball, winding clock down. They find an open man and nail a three. 20-18 Ohio. 9:30 remaining.


-Ohio's ball movement is excellent and it results in another open shot.  22-18 Ohio. 8:23 remaining.  Georetown with another turnover.  Ohio takes possession again finding the open man. Freeman for three. Nails it. 25-18. Ohio. Timeout.

-After the timeout, Monroe with a great drop step and spin layup. On the other end Ohio turns it over.


-After I doze off for a few minutes (sorry, post-dinner food coma) its G'Town down 48-36 at the half. UNLV is up 36-35. CBS has put Marquette vs. Washington on. Marquette is up 31-30.

- Isiah Thomas for Washington (nope, no relation) nails a three. 33-31 Huskies.

-CBS shows us clips of Armon Basset's excellent play in the first half.  Very few Armons out there. The last one I heard of was Armon Tanzarian and his reign of terror in Springfield.

- Back to G'Town and Ohio. Ohio continues its terrific ball movement. Open shot. 50-36. G'Town follows that with a turnover. However, they recover with a steal and dunk by Jason Clark.

- Monroe is stripped by Ohio who takes the ball the length of the court. Foul on Georetown underneath. 17:52 remaining.

- Kentucky is giving us the obligatory 1 seed vs. 16 seed blowout.

- Cooper of Ohio steals the ball from Wright. Cooper takes it down and delivers a beautiful alley oop. The crowd is up and is definitely pro-Ohio.  53-38.  The ugly G'Town has definitely showed up tonight.

- Back at the G'Town/Ohio announcers booth, Lundquist sells a Raftery joke. Sometimes these guys like each other a little too much.

- Wright (Georgetown) steals the ball, fast break, layup  by Freeman. 53-42 Ohio.

- Switching channels during commercial and watching clips of Heat vs. Orlando on TNT.  "The magnificent" Dwyane Wade says Doug Collins.  You know times are tough when it appears that Wade's  best friend on the team is Quentin Richardson.

- Second half underway in the No. Iowa and UNLV game.  Northern Iowa up 45-43.  Washington and Marquette are tied at 41 with 46 seconds left in the first half.

- Big call in the Ohio/G'Town game.  Monroe makes a bucket and there is a whistle.  Offensive foul on Monroe.  G'Town is down 13.

- Basset comes the other way and nails a step back three. 58-42 Ohio.  They look good as Raftery skats, "a rat-a-tat-tat."

- Magic-Heat. 56-54 Miami in the third. Underrated story this year: Dwyane Wade is an excellent passer.  Very much ignored.  His season this year is like 2005-2007 Kobe, except he can pass.

- Wade posts, draws double, spins baseline, drives in traffic and dishes to Arroyo for an open two. He gets it.

- Switch back.  Foul on Georgetown underneath.  Ohio headed to the line. G'Town looks disinterested.

- Monroe slashes nicely for a big man, dishes to Wright for an easy layup. 59-44 with 14:20 left.

-Marquette up 43-42 at the half and just as I am thinking it, CBS switches to the UNLV/No. Iowa game. 50-48 Northern Iowa. UNLV is pressing No. Iowa. I can feel the old blisters forming on my feet. What?

- Northern Iowa with some great ball movement and an open 3.  Their fans are holding up giant heads of one of their players who look like Bobby Boucher from The Waterboy. I like it.

- UNLV breaks a trap, but Chase Stanback is fouled by Kerwin Dunham. Which one of those guys is black?

- UNLV steals from No. Iowa. They launch a three. No good. 53-49 Northern Iowa with 7:49 to go.

- Back to Miami and Orlando. The Magic have taken the lead 67-60. Of course.  Beasley with a miss. What can you say about him? Terrible.


-Coming to a critical period with no TiVo. New Offic starts at 9:00.  I think D-Wade may suffer tonight. Tonight (shock!) priorities go: NCAA Hoops, comedy, NBA. Normal priorities: 1. Writing/beer, 2. NBA, 3. Comedy.

- Northern Iowa with a steal and Adam Koch with a layup and the foul. Northern Iowa on an 11-1 run. 6:49 left.

-Northern Iowa is playing tremendous defense, but UNLV gets a putback and then a steal. Chase Stanback (black or white?) nails a three. 58-54.

- The Office is on. It may be jumping the shark this season.

- UNLV gets the halfcourt trap and Northern Iowa has to call timeout.

-UNLV on a 7-0 run now as Stanback gets white-hot. 58-56 with 5:09 left.


-Kwadzo Ahelegbe on the line for Northern Iowa.  He makes both FTs. 60-56. Timeout UNLV with 5:03 left.

- UNLV has cut the lead to 62-61 as Stanback continues his hot hand. UNLV are using the press very effectively. Northern Iowa is flustered. They lose the ball, get it back and there is a tie-up. Possession goes to UNLV.

- Back in Providence, Georgetown has cut the lead to 7. 81-74 with 4:35 left.  Basset misses a long three. G'Town gets the rebound and brings the ball down and they are fouled.  However, the one and one misses.

- Cooper makes a three for Ohio.  They have 13 threes in the game.  The lead is ten. Foul on Ohio and we go to timeout.

- One of two freethrows made. 9 point Ohio lead with 3:30 to go.  Cooper drives for Ohio and makes a terrific one-handed scoop.  86-78 Ohio. 2:00 left.

- Georgetown has to foul Cooper. He makes two. 88-78. Georgetown misses and it looks like Ohio is going to take the game.

- We switch to UNLV/No. Iowa.  66-63 Northern Iowa leads with 1:09 remaining.  Shot clock violation against Northern Iowa. 57.2 seconds left.

- UNLV ties it with a three by Belfield who then makes the steal but goes out of bounds. No timeouts left for Northern Iowa. 35 seconds left.

- Northern Iowa will hold it for the last shot.  UNLV can't foul.  Northern Iowa is backed up near half court, but Ali Farokhmanesh nails a long three! 69-66 Northern Iowa.  UNLV takes it down court and it is tapped out. Officials are trying to figure out how much time to put on the clock. They decide on 1.6 seconds.

- As we are in timeout, Marquette has opened up on Washington, 60-47 with thirteen minutes left.

-UNLV inbounds. Three point attempt is too late. No good anyway. Northern Iowa advances.

- We're back in Providence. Ohio is up 93-80. Georgetown brings the ball down and travelling is called on Wright. Georgetown is going to play the foul game with 56.2 seconds left and down 13.

- Washington has cut Marquette's lead to 8.

- Switch to 30 Rock. Liz Lemon making some great Philadelphia Eagles snowball throwing references.

-"This is for you, Don Goose" - Jenna on 30 Rock.

-Switch back. Washington makes a three. 62-58 Marquette is barely hanging on.  Washington with a steal and it is tied-up. Jump ball, possession stays with Marquette. Marquette with a crazy shot off the glass. Butler with the putback. 64-58. Washington at the other end - a three! 64-61. Eight three pointers for Washington.

- Haywood for Marquette with a catch and shoot. Drains it. Very pretty shot, very tough.

- It is strange hearing Isiah Thomas' name being repeated over and over.  Washington nails a long jumper. 66-63 Marquette.

- Marquette has missed a few layups and Washington comes back down the floor. Thomas to Pondexter. Layin. 66-65 with 6:43 left.

- 30 Rock back on. Frank is rocking a Pumps t-shirt.  Maybe repping the sleazy Williamsburg strip club on Grand Street?

- "I got a lot of flack for playing the pig that ate Babe," - Jenna.

- Marquette inbounds. Hayward witha  tough bank. 71-69 with 5:41 remaining.  Marquette with a miss. Thomas buries a three for Washington! 72-71.  Marquette loses the ball. Timeout with 4:59 left.

- 30 Rock: Settling soul mates. Some classic lines. "I've played Monopoly alone." "You can make me look less gay at work functions."

- Good defense by Marquette. Steal, drive, dish for an open three! Nailed! 74-72 Marquette. Marquette continutes to play good defense.  It looks like they make a clean block, but are called for the fouk.  4:15 left. Quincy Pondexter at the line.  He makes both freethrows. 74-74. 4:11. Marquette works the ball inside. Shooting foul on Washington.

- Switch back to 30 Rock. "Its a Lizaster." "At one time my obituary was going to say, 'Young CEO dies in casino orgy fire.'"

- Marquette  at the line. 3:54. Jimmy Butler makes both. 76-74 Marquette. 3:52 left.

- Isiah Thomas goes for a nice reverse layup, but its blocked out of bounds. Washington ball.  Washington with several offensive rebounds but can't make the follow-up.  Butler with a rebound, he slips. Travelling called. Washington ball. 3:12.

- Pondexter working for Washington, misses, follows his own shot. 76-76. 2:34.

- Marquette has the ball. Acker drives and is fouled.

- We may need Isiah Thomas in this tournament so that announcers can oversay his name for nostalgia.

- Acker makes both FTs. 78-76 Marquette. 2:26.  Marquette presses. Foul.  Washington makes both FTs. 78-78 with two minutes remaining.

- Hayward with a long three for Marquette. Misses. Washington has the ball with 1:40 left. Marquette strips it! Tieup. Jump ball to Marquette. Marquette turns it over on a missed pass! 59 seconds left.

- Isiah misses the long three. Rebound Washington. 30 seconds left. Washington to hold. Seven seconds on the shot clock.  Pondexter with a herky jerky move. Banks it in! 80-78 Washington with 1.7 seconds left. This is getting ridiculous today!

- Kansas down 0-2 with 17:32 remaining!

- Marquette misses the last second shot. Huskies win 80-78.

- Miami and Orlando are in OT. 101-100 Orlando.  Wade takes a three and misses. Carter posts on Dorrell Wright and makes the turnaround with the foul. 104-100 Orlando.

-Lehigh is leading Kansas 10-4. Slightly surprising with 14 minutes left.  Carrington of Lehigh with a beautiful bank shot. 12-4.

- Back to Heat/Orlando. Wade drives, gets fouled and almost makes the shot. Wade has 35 tonight. Makes both FTs. Heat follow that up with good defense, but Lewis gets to the corner and makes a 3.  That puts the nail in the coffin.

- Back to the tourny.  Tennesse and San Diego State are in a close one. Tennessee is trailing.

- Collins with a three for Kansas. Miss. KU is cold.

- Maurice Morris knocks down a three for KU. Morris follows that with some good defense. He knocks the ball away. Tie up. Lehigh ball.  KU keeps up pressure. Lehigh throws it away. KU makes the layup. 12-9 with 12:20 left. Lehigh works it in. Offensive foul.

- KU works it inside to Aldrich.  Aldrich makes the layup and is fouled.  Chance for a three point play.

- Aldrich completes it.  Morris and KU are coming alive. 17-16 with Kansas looking good, this could get out of hand.

- San Diego State and Tennesse are embroiled at 14-11.

-Xavier Henry makes a three for KU.

-Collins drives in and makes a floating layup. KU up 21-14 with 8:10 remaining. Lehigh is going cold. They can tell Kansas is ready.

-Tennesse and SD State are at 22-21 with 6:14 remaining. CBS wants us to have a long look at KU, though.  Lehigh is just losing it. Amazing how fast Sherron Collins is.

- Tayshawn Taylor with a steal and a nice soaring dunk.

- Finally Lehigh makes a three. Foul on Kansas. 5:45 remaining. 25-17.  Lehigh with a long two. 25-19. Another offensive foul on Kansas. That's two on Cole Aldrich.

- Carrington makes an awkward hook. 25-21 Kansas.  But a foul on Lehigh. KU misses both shots.

- Carrington with another great move and a nice fadeaway jumper. 25-23.

- Scoreboards: Texas and Wake tied at 30 with 2:00 minutes left in the first half.  Tennesse up on SD State 30-21 with 2:10 left.

- KU makes one FT. 26-23. Travel on KU. Long two from Lehigh. 26-25.

-Xavier Henry throws it away for KU. Lehigh answers with a turnover.  Collins drives and is fould by John Adams. Gotta love the Patriot League.

- Collins makes 2.  28-25. KU with a strip on Lehigh and Collins makes a 3. 31-25 KU 1:35 left in the half.  Lehigh needs a bucket and they get a tip in by McCullem off a Carrington miss.

- Texas and Wake at 38-35 with 1 minute left.

-Tennessee and SD State 32-26 with 52 seconds left.

-Lehigh gets the ball down to Carringon who makes an outside drop step and makes a sneaky layup.  31-29 Kansas. Collins answers with a drive and a perfect reverse layup.

- Off a Lehigh miss, Collins drives and dishes for a KU layup.  35-29 Kansas at the half.

- We switch to Tennessee and SD State. Prince with a strange pump bank shot but he makes it. Tennessee up 34-26 with 2.2 left in the half.

- Texas up on Wake 38-37 at the half.

- Draper is doing Mercedes commercials.  Soothing until Mad Men Season 4.

- New Mexico and Montanat. 17-17 with 8:54 remaining. Two states I have spent time in. I almost camped right next to a prison in New Mexico, but my friends and I decided against it. The uniform matchup here leaves a lot to be desired though.  Almost made me forget that it was a 3 seed vs. 14 seed matchup tied at 17.

- Back from the half to Lehigh and KU.  Kevin Harlan gives us a litany of stats where KU is outplaying Lehigh, but Lehigh remains within 6.

- Collins in to Aldrich. Layup. 37-29. Watch for Aldrich.

- Bad baseline pass by Lehigh picked off by Xavier Henry. Collins with a nice crossover but misses the layup.

- 3 pointer by Lehigh, but Maurice Morris answers with a layup. 39-32 KU.

- Harlan asks, "In the tournament you have to have urgency don't you?"

- Xavier Henry gets a rebound and goes to coast to coast. 41-32 KU. They are pulling away quickly.

- Wake up on Texas 44-38. Tennessee up 37-28 on SD State. Montana up 22-17 on New Mexico.

- Lehigh misses and KU takes it down and Xavier Henry makes a pretty floater in the lane as Harlan and partner talk up his skills.

-Lehigh makes a pair of FT. 43-34. 16:55 remaining. Travel on Xavier Henry. Chance for Lehigh here, but they almost turn it over. Long three from C.J. McCullen for Lehigh. Aldrich answers with a dunk. 45-37.

- Missed 3 by Lehigh. Tap in by McCullem. 45-39.

- Collins answers with a three. 48-39.  Tough inside pass by Lehigh. Kansas steals and Xavier Henry lays down an NBA drunk in the lane. 50-39. Lehigh follows with a three. 50-42. KU turns the ball over and Lehigh makes a layup. 50-44.


- Wake pulling away from Texas 54-42. Tennessee and SD State are tight. Tennessee is up 39-37. Montana up 28-27 on New Mexico at the half.


- Tyrell Reed nails a three for Kansas. 56-44. I always like Kansas because of their UNC connections.  This year they seem extremely deep (Ed note: Clearly this was written on Thursday. Oh what a difference two days make in the NCAA Tournament.)

-The superior athleticism of Kansas is starting to show at the 10:25 mark.  But Lehigh nails a three. 58-49.

- Morningstar nails a three for KU. 61-49.  Collins is showing his ability to get wherever he wants to on the court. He dishes to Reed who nails another three. 64-51. 9:19 remaining. KU looks in control so we switch back to Providence where Tennessee is up 44-43 on SD State. 9:44 left.

- SD State takes the lead. "They are back back up!" exclaims Verne Lundquist.  You can tell that he loves this time of year - maybe too much.

- Tennessee takes the lead as J.P. Prince makes two FTs. 46-45 Tennessee.  Offensive foul on SD State as Prince takes a vicious elbow to the face.  In a funny moment, Wayne Chism "kicks" Prince on the floor.

- Is RepoMen going to be good? No, right?

- This SD State/Tennessee game is hard to watch. I have seen a few Tennessee games this year, but it seems like they always play games that finish with a score of 60-52. They also always have really athletic and long players that play very loose and sloppy.

-Nice inside pass by Tennessee ino Chism for the layup. 48-45 Vols. Hopson nails a three. 51-47 Tennessee. 4:21 left.

- Gay on SD State with the lefty layup. And one.  He makes the FT. 53-50 Tennessee. 4:08.

- Tennessee is at the line with two FTs. Another questionable loose ball call called. Tennessee 55-50 with 3:20 left.


-Wake leads Texas 68-62 with 2:10 left and New Mexico has taken the lead on Montana 38-32.  Tennessee gets called for an offensive foul. 55-52 with 2:38 left.  SD State travels. Tennessee inbounds to Chism and Chism loses the ball by making a terrible behind the back dribble decision.

- All of a sudden, we are switched to Wake and Texas. Wake is up 67-64.  Brown of Texas hits a three. 67-67. 49.3 seconds left.

- Back to SD State and Tennessee. 57-54 Tennessee. 57 seconds left.


-Foul on Tennessee.

- Back to Wake an Texas. Wake is up 68-67. Texas drives and there is a dish for a layup, but its blocked. Tieup. Wake ball.

- Back to  Tennessee and SD State. Tennessee is up 57-56. Prince misses a FT but Chism with the rebound. 30 seconds left.  Tennessee moving the ball.  12 on the shot clock. Ball movement to Goings who makes a three! SD State comes down and Tennessee fouls on the three point shot! Wake is going to the line to shoot three free throws. 9.5 seconds left.

- Gay makes the first. "He's a net guy. He doesn't touch the tip." Vaguely erotic.

- 13.6 remaining in Texas vs. Wake.  Wake turns it over on the inbounds pass.

- SD State makes two of three FTs. Tennessee and SD State. 60-59 Tennessee.

- NM has pulled away from Montana.

- Back to Texas and Wake. Damien James drives and there is a blocking foul on Wake.  9.9 seconds left. James makes the first FT. Tie. James misses the second.  Wake drives down and loses the ball. Texas picks it up. Half court shot. No. Another overtime.  I can barely write or think anymore.

- In Tennessee/SD State, Chism makes two FTs. SD State with three seconds left goes for the three to tie.  No! Tennessee winds.

- Texas and Wake in OT. Wake misses a floater. Texas works it inside.  Ragged baseline jumper is good. Wake comes back with a three. Miss. Tip back. Miss. Texas gets the rebound and works it down inside on the other end for a layup. 71-68.

- Texas steals the ball and Jordan Hamilton hits a three. 74-68. Texas steals the ball immediately. Damien James for a dunk and is fouled. 3:04 left. James makes both FTs. 76-68 Texas.

- Wake converts a follow-up dunk. 2:43. Texas misses a three and there is a loose ball foul. Wake Forest makes the first of the one and one. They make the second. 76-72 Texas.

- Brown makes a long jumper for Texas. 78-72. 1:49 left.  Wake can't get going on offense. Loose ball picked up by Texas.  1:25 left. Texas has the ball, but Brown is called for a charge.

- Wake shoots a three. Misses but the follow up is good. 78-74 Texas.

- Texas misses two FTs. 78-74 with 49 seconds left.  Wake misses a three. Damien James grabs the rebound with 35.4 left.  From what I have seen, this has been a sloppy game. Wake  fouls Texas. First FT is made. 79-76. Second FT made. 80-76. 28.2 seconds remaining.

- Wake takes the ball down. Open 3 by Wake's Gay. Nails it. 80-79 with 15.9 remaining.  Dick Enberg says, "Oh my! Overtime!"

- Wake fouls Texas with 10 seconds left.

- Meanwhile, Montana has crawled back to 53-52. One after another with these ridiculously close games.

- Texas misses both FTs and Wake comes back and nails a three! Unbelieveable. 82-80.  Texas for the last minute shot. No good. Jesus, let me sleep.

- The Montana/New Mexico game has sucked me in like this is Godfather Part III.  New Mexico 57, Montana 54. 1:50 left.

- Montana misses a layup. Out of bounds to Montana. Inbounds, baseline jumper is good. 57-56 with 1:25 to go.

- Montana commits a blocking foul with 1:22 left. New Mexico at the line. Dariese Gary makes the first. He makes the second. 59-56.


- Montana is moving the ball side to side.  The ball is almost stolen and then actually stolen by New Mexico with 52 seconds left.  Timeout, New Mexico.

- Montana fouls New Mexico with 42.4 seconds left. Dariese Gary misses the first. He makes the second. 60-56 with 30.4 left.

- Montana inbounds the ball. They drive and drop-off for the layup. The shot misses, but there is a foul. Two shots. 22.4 seconds to go. One of two free throws are made. 60-57. Montana fouls before the ball is inbounded. Dariese Gary for New Mexico misses both FTs! Montana drives down at the other end, but they miss the layup.  They have to foul New Mexico with 13.5 seconds left.

-Roman Martinez at the line for New Mexico.  He makes both FTs. 62-57 New Mexico.

- Montana takes the ball in.  They attempt a three. Miss. Second chance. Miss. New Mexico winds.  Dear Lord what a day. Can it be this good again?

I exhausted myself scribbling out those notes and I just exhausted myself typing them up. Of course, Friday was a solid day of action and then yesterday we had two big upsets with Villanova and then Kansas both getting upset.  This tournament is really wide open at this point as the main storylines become:

1. How mediocre the overall competition is, which breeds all of these exciting games; and

2. John Wall vs. Evan Turner. Who will be the #1 pick in the draft? Depending how well each of these guys play in the tournament could decide who is picked first.  Kentucky is extremely talented and could take the entire thing at this point from what I have seen of them. I haven't seen Ohio State in the tournament yet, but you can't rule out Evan Turner.

Anyway, that's my take on the tournament for now. I am going to try to enjoy the beautiful weather today and the games later on.  I'm going to get the first podcast up this week and then try to do one every week going forward.

Just stay with me here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Puddles of Myself?

This should serve as a sort of mid-week update. My last day at work is April 2 and I am being slave-driven until that date so that every ounce of work can be extracted from my body.  I have been listening to Joanna Newsom's Have One On Me and have been mightily impressed.  My sensibilities would normally clash with music like Newsom's however, on this album at least, it is very soothing and also inspiring in places.  You will find no better song this year or maybe this decade than "Good Intentions Paving Company," which is equal parts Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Todd Rundgren, Grateful Dead and, yes, Paul McCartney.  The arrangements are tasteful overall and I am only beginning to pay attention to the nuances.  I have to delve into Newsom's backcatalogue in order to gain the full arc of her career so far.  Hopefully I can expound on what it is about "Good Intentions Paving Company" that I enjoy so much - it is certainly something elemental, I just can't put my finger exactly on it yet.

In other news, Alex Chilton, died this week.  There is too much to say about this guy.  One of the more influential and subliminal rock song writers and performers of all time.  Much has been made of Big Star and its looming presences over indie music and "critic" music, but Chilton was truly one of a kind.  He was gifted with songwriting ability and also a poignant self-destructive streak that made him so appealing to intelligent and creative people (read underdogs) everywhere.  He may have captured the essence of early rock and roll in "Thirteen" without ever using an actual rock n' roll trope or at least outright "rock" atmosphere. Instead, through the gentle, walking melody and razor sharp lyrics, he caught for a moment that earnest and nervous sensation that lives inside of us throughout our youth and, very likely, most of our lives in some capacity.  This is something that I could talk about for pages and pages. And, seeing as I have not been thinking explicitly about Big Star in a long time, I may very well do.  There is something absolutely true in much of the Big Star work, whether it is the Chilton/Bell "collaborations" on #1 Record, or the ragged pop on Radio City, or the total deconstruction of one's own catalogue and image on Third/Sister Lovers. Like I said, we can go on for hours about a man who even Paul Westerberg wrote a song about, claiming "I never travel far/without a little Big Star."

Winning Time on Sunday was everything it lived up to be.  I woke up and decided I would eat Chinese spare ribs and watch the documentary and I did and I loved it.  The interviews were terrific and it was fantastic to relive the atmosphere of that Indiana/New York rivalry in the mid-90's.  There isn't as great of an abundance of personalities in the NBA as there was at that time and that rivalry is only a snap shot.  Or rather perhaps what made it so great was that there were so many tremendous personalities focused in one rivalry.  However much I enjoyed the documentary, I couldn't help but feel as though part of the entire story was missing. The documentary ends with "The Finger-roll" in 1995 and the realization that the early 90's Knicks teams were basically finished.  However, there is no denouement to the arc of the movie.  I felt as though the director should have put the rivalry in perspective: it was merely two teams who filled a void left by Michael Jordan. Perhaps that sort of message belongs in a Chicago Bulls documentary, but to me, both the 90's Pacers and Knicks were defined by the presence and absence of Michael Jordan, which, again to me, completes the entire story of that time period of 1994-1995 (the absence of Jordan) as well as those two teams and their stars.  Reggie Miller was a terrfic player, but the absence of Jordan allowed him to fill a certain superstar, clutch void that was left open.  However, it is very fitting that both the great rivalries of the 1990's focused around the New York Knicks and a revitalized Madison Square Garden.  It sort of makes you think of what we are missing right now with a usually non-frenzied Garden.  It is an arena that is the last of its kind and is just waiting to wake up.

Tomorrow the tournament starts and I may keep a journal of the first day of games with some of my impressions.  I was very entertained this past weekend by the Conference Tournaments and I am very curious about the the NCAA Tournament this year.  After having attended tournament rounds the past two years, I am feeling kind of lonely without knowing I'll be at a game.  There is something about knowing that all of those games are going on at one time, all of those team colors, the mascots, the student fans, the 7,000 or so players involved, that is so inspiring and dizzying.  It strikes me as something great about humankind, but again, I can't put my finger on it.  Maybe I'm just too damn tired.

On a final note, tonight I am going to post up my initial sketching for my next story whether it end up being a novel or not.  The very idea of doing this got me thinking about the legacies of writers and artists and the current means we have of communicating and spreading art. It seems to me that in the past, artists would be more reluctant to share their works in progress until they are complete, whereas now we have album leaks, we have MySpace pages that allow us to showcase our demo tracks, and we have YouTube  videos embedded in our personal pages to show rough footage of our films and comedy shorts.  So, maybe, as "an artist," there is something wrong with thinking it is a good idea to share the newest material and ideas that you have come up with immediately.   But, one has to think, as "an artist," that it is a perfect way to judge one's audience.  For instance, what I am about to post strikes very much of Fitzgerald and I am wondering what effect that will have on those who read it. If it lures them in for the narrative experiments I will cast on them later or if it turns them away as too artificial and owing to a writer who very well may have been better than  I am.  In any event, you are getting a priveleged look into the story that is developing within my skull at this very moment and perhaps I will not get to retain any mystery I may have; I lose all credibility as a J.D. Salinger figure or a godhead like Tolstoy or Joyce and become a shameless self-promoter.  However, something about me will sleep easy because I believe that all my gods all took shits and were self-promoters themselves, which is how they became gods in the first place.  They just had different languages and passages of communication to control and navigate.

See below.  You'll notice that the basketball references are anachronistic, but they will do for now, in the service of getting the story on the page.

Adam hadn’t met Claire when we first knew each other at school.  They only got together at the very end, right before we all graduated in that golden summer of 2007.  The summer of 2007 -when the sun shone brighter than any other summer in the history of the eastern seaboard; when employment and love were ripe fruits to be plucked at will and with Edenic ease.

No, I’d first known Adam in the late fall of a depressing first semester of sophomore year, when Virginia didn’t seem like the place for me.  I literally collided with him while I was jogging across campus. I was quitting cigarettes – I had been a smoker since fourteen and have since started again after ten years off – and he was running from the library back to his house with books curled under his arm.  We each landed on our asses on the red brick that all the campus walkways were made of.  His books scattered over the worn brickwork in the orange walkway light.  There was a navy blue bound version of You Can’t Go Home Again, a beaten paperback copy of The Red Badge of Courage, and a book called Celtics Pride: The Rebuilding of Boston’s World Championship Basketball Team by Bob Ryan, a sports writer I knew only because of my passion for basketball.

I deftly picked up the books and got to my feet as Adam slowly rose to his wearing a ripped grey sweatshirt that bore the name of our college’s rugby team.

“I’m sorry about that, buddy,” he said to me, slapping me on the shoulder and back. “I’m always in a rush these days.”

I waved my hand and handed him the books. “You from Boston?”

“No,” he said while simultaneously laughing a deep hearty laugh. “I just like this guy.”

“Me too.”

He gave another hearty laugh. “I’ve seen you around before haven’t I?”

“That’s quite possible,” I said.

He held out his hand. “Adam Sirch.”

I gave him my name and we shook on it.  He asked if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother if he could buy me a beer for knocking me down the way he did.  Never one to turn down a beer, I took him up on the offer and we rather strangely, at his insistence, jogged to a humble corner bar that conveniently separated the campus from the surrounding neighborhood.

Over what turned into several Budweisers, we found out that we had quite a bit in common: both of us were avid readers, though he admitted that he had not read as widely and as seriously as I seemed to have; we both wished to do something with the words we had collected, namely to write some of our own; while we both admired and hoped to be novelists, he wrote for the college newspaper, The Eagle, while I collected my terse and melancholy poems and short stories for future publication.  I told him I admired newspapers but didn’t think that I could ever write for one.

“Nonsense, man. You could.” He slapped me on the back.

However, what we both loved was basketball.  It turned out he loved it even more than I.  The bar had a television bracketed lazily in its front corner, right above its slim liquor selection.  That night happened to be a Thursday, so there was an NBA doubleheader on TNT.  During the first game – Celtics vs. Cavaliers – we each complimented Lebron James’ obvious athleticism and marveled at Rajon Rondo’s large palms and complete control of the ball at the point. “Not even Isaiah could do that,” Adam remarked. “He is like Nash with Michael Jordan’s hands.  He might be better than Chris Paul.”

As we each reached about a six-pack during the second game – Denver vs. Portland – we debated if Carmelo Anthony would ever win a title. 

“These Denver teams are good,” Adam opined, “and he does need a point guard who can make threes like Billups.  They need a center, though.”

“He has a unique skill set,” I added.

“Yes! He’s not Pippin or Gervin or Irving.  But he’s also not English or Chambers.  He has some kind of weird DNA.  He can handle and he can shoot threes.  Who is he?”

I shrugged.

As we walked out the door and into the still, mild night, we shook again.

“If only the Blazers could still throw outlet passes like in Walton’s day.”

I agreed and then thanked him for the beers.  I told him that I would have to get him back very soon.
“It’s nothing.  We’ll see each other around.”

We went our separate ways through the quiet southern suburban neighborhood.  A guy and a girl were leant up against a car and I bummed a cigarette from them.  I walked and smoked looking up at the clear night sky and thought that maybe things could get better in some way.  I finished the cigarette, started jogging and somewhere in the distance a dog barked.

Though the campus was small, Adam and I didn’t run into each other until the following semester.  I had just finished a mid-term on French novels.  Exhausted of Stendhal, I was looking forward to a beer.  As I was exiting campus, a biker screeched to a halt right by me.  It was Adam.

“Hey don’t I know you?” he said.

I laughed and nodded.

“That’s right. You’re the guy that owes me those drinks.”

“Guilty,” I said slapping his outstretched hand in greeting. “Let’s go.”

So, he wheeled his bike along as we walked to the same bar that we had first shared beers at. It was the first Thursday of the NCAA basketball tournament, so the bar had the games on its dusty TV.  We sipped our beers and watched the earnest tempo of the college game unfold.

Adam had been very busy.  Besides playing winter league for the rugby team, he had gotten a chance to write for the town’s newspaper covering sports. He pulled a folded copy of the day’s issue out of his back pocket and pointed to an article he had written recapping the season of the town’s high school basketball team – they were one of the most storied programs in the valley.

“It’s good work,” he said. “The people that work there are nice enough.  It might help me get a job writing in D.C or New York after all this is over.”

We both agreed that “all this” would soon be over and we each took a moment to think about that fact.

“What you been up to anyway?’ he asked.

I told him that I had a serious workload with my courses for the semester but that I had still been writing.  I had even submitted one of my less brooding stories in to the English Department writing contest.

“Fantastic,” he clapped the bar. “You’ll have to let me read it.  I have a good editorial eye these days.”
The maize afternoon light began to turn to the periwinkle of twilight and the last afternoon session game ended, bringing the local news on. We both decided we had had enough daytime beers and that it was time to move on.

“Seriously, though,” Adam said, getting on his bike, newspaper sticking up against his back, “let’s hang out soon.  Not let all this time pass.”

“You got it, man.”

We shook and he took off back up the hill towards the campus. The spring air was moist and through the pleasant haze of the beers I had drunken, everything seemed to be beginning.  Maybe it was just that annual feeling of spring – or quite possibly the right amount of beer – but as I looked at the overhanging branches in the neighborhood, their buds turning all different shades of purple and green, all objects seemed to fit right into place: the planters on the windowsills, the flags blowing above front door frames, the cleanly painted shutters and even the black and off white contrast of driveway and sidewalk.  It was a picture of promise or of the reminder that things could be good in some way. I tucked my books snugly under my arm and picked my stride up as evening fully set in.  I decided I would sleep well that night and nod off to the squeaking of sneakers on a college basketball court.
Adam and I did see each other more frequently after that.  In fact, we soon became fast friends.  That semester ended in a rush and we did our fair share of partying.  He introduced me to his friends on the rugby team and I introduced him to my motley assembly of sports obsessed friends.  That summer, instead of returning to our respective homes, we stayed in town and got jobs.  He worked at the paper and at a running shoe store while I worked at the school library and did shifts at the town brewery, which yielded a stead supply of ales and lagers that we drank in great quantity throughout the heat of the summer.  There were quite a few of our friends around and we had a great time riding our bikes to each other’s houses, jumping in the river and staying up to all hours of the night to get at least a taste of cool air.  One night, an acquaintance of ours threw herself a birthday party.  Adam and I proceeded to entertain and annoy nearly all of the guests by leaving a series of absurd and comic notes in various places all over the house: the freezer, the utensil drawer, between beers in the fridge, the butter container, in bags and under dishes.  As people found the notes and either laughed or rolled their eyes at us, I finally felt comfortable at my life in Virginia.

Like most college experiences, the last two years flew by. Adam and I continued our antics at school.  He continued writing for the paper and I even joined the literary magazine.  We each took a semester abroad and only communicated through hand written letters.  He was an honest friend, and the enthusiasm and enjoyment for life he expressed in his letters encouraged me to look for the same in my own experiences. When we returned together, we lived together in a house with two of our other friends.  It was a stone house and the owners had kept a terrific garden with vegetables that we tried to maintain, even though it usually filled with bottles and other beer debris.  People often joked about how we were inseparable and in many ways we were, but it wasn’t until the very end of college that he met Claire.

Claire had light brown hair and lived in an apartment above a separated garage at one of the suburban homes near the school – that house happened to be very near to ours.  Claire woke up early on weekends and during the week and babysat for the family that lived in the main house.  She jogged by the river in the middle of the town and bought bread from the bakery.  You could see her running with a bag of bread on some mornings if you chose to get up that early. Claire also had dark brown sloping eyes and a controlled smile that always seemed to be on the verge of breaking loose and letting her white teeth shine out.  Her skin was tan and lightly freckled – she looked like she was born on a boat. However, she grew up with two older sisters on a farmhouse amid the hills of the eastern part of the valley. It was that house and the small creek that ran through its backyard and crop fields that won Adam over.

    We had been invited to a big party at Claire’s family home at the end of our senior year.  Claire’s sister played mandolin in a folk-rock group that was actually quite big in the stretch of cities and colleges from D.C. to Atlanta. Although we had seen Claire around and had even had short conversations with her, neither of us really knew her.  I had been seeing a girl named Emily who ran the magazine and it was starting to become serious, so there was no real reason to get to know that many other girls.  And Adam, he was too energetic, too strong, too interested in so many things and girls to ever fix his eye on one thing.  But that night, as we parked his Jeep and got out of the car amid the almost deafening echo of the crickets in the hills, we each looked up to Claire’s family farmhouse.  There was a feeling that was almost palpable, that almost walked out of the car with us, and that was the feeling that this night was to mark a new era in both of our lives.

    “Shit,” Adam had said. “Two more weeks.”

    “It won’t seem that short.”

    He laughed. “You’re probably right.”

    I grabbed a case of beer out of the back seat and we shuffled along the dirt road up towards the house, which was lit against the darkness of the surrounding woods.  I could almost make out the vague, ignorant shapes of the hills.

    “Claire told me that there is a place behind the farm, up on the hill, called Judgment Seat,” Adam said. “She told me you can get a whole view of this side of the valley.”

    “That must be nice in the fall.”

    “Must be nice in the mist.”

    “When were you two talking about that?” I asked.

    He tucked the case of beer further under his arm and leant forward into his steps as we walked up the slope to the front of the house. “Some time when we were walking from the neighborhood to school. Our schedules line up like that sometime.”

    I nodded and we both stepped up to the porch.  The front door was open but it was covered by a screen door.  We could hear faint fiddle coming through the house.  Adam banged his hand on the green chipped wood frame of the screen. I looked over at Adam as he messed his hair around with his free hand.

    “You son of a bitch,” I said. “You’ve got a thing for her.”

    He frowned at me as if in disgust, then he smiled and, finally, he shrugged.

    Claire answered the front door with a chocolate lab at her side. She was wearing her light brown hair down and her sloping eyes rose slightly when she saw us.

    “Boys,” she said in her high sweet voice, “ you made it.”

    “Of course,” Adam said.

    She swung open the door and let us in. She already had a yellow plastic cup in her hand.   The cup had faded blue lettering on it as well as the faded blue shape of a sun.  It looked like a cup from her childhood.  We both assumed that it was full of beer.  She drew each of us in and gave us a hug.  She felt more relaxed and open then I could remember.  As she and Adam embraced, I saw that she kissed him quickly on the lips.

    Small flies flitted throughout the house, which smelled like a freshly lit fire and the moist dirt of April.  The whole house was made of wood and as we walked through the front room of the house back to the dining room, two other chocolate labs joined us, gently clacking their nails ahead of our steps.  In the dining room, to the right, there was a small room lit up by a blue light and there were carcasses of musical instruments and other accessories lain about: wooden husks of violins and guitars, wires from speakers and bass strings twisting like bare tree branches in the dim hazel. Adam and I followed behind Claire, but I had to laugh, because it was evident that Adam was slowing his pace from walking up beside Claire.  The fiddle music grew louder when we passed through the kitchen and out to the raised back porch.  Outside, the backyard was lit up by large white Christmas lights that stretched in a misshapen tee-pee from against the house and out to trees in the yard – creating a vague point at the center of it all, under which the grass appeared like the center of a town square from some warm southern village I had romanticized while studying outside one day.  Down below, we saw Claire’s two like haired sisters sitting with two guys.  One of the girls was playing the fiddle, while another played mandolin.  One of the guys had a bass that was plugged into a small amplifier, while the other tapped on a three piece silver drum set that fit right at home as close as it was to the row of kegs that were set up.

    “This is what you came here for, boys,” Claire looked back at us, leaning against the rainworn railing of the deck. “Lucky you got here early.”

    Adam stepped up to the railing next to her.  She turned sideways looking at him.  Adam faced out to the peak of light and the darkness where the hills rose up and the Judgement Seat rested. “We are,” he said.  I could only see the back of his head.

    The party grew as any party where there is plenty of beer will.  However, the air was perfectly mild and there was plenty of space to move around, which made this a particularly enjoyable party.  The music grew louder as more and more people I had come to know over the past four years circled past me under the white light.  There were no complaints from any neighbors and it seemed at times that Claire’s family home was the only home in the entire valley.  I wandered around the house, partly thinking of Emily, who was having her own farewell dinner with some of her closest friends, but mainly thinking of what I would do next.  I fumbled my way into a bathroom. The walls were covered with family photos.  There were pictures of Claire’s sisters playing field hockey when they were in high school and a picture of Claire on a horse with her father. Claire was wearing a cowboy hat.  Adam told me that both of her parents had died right before she started at school and that the house was willed to her oldest sister.  There was a picture of the three sisters and their mother dressed up for Halloween: Claire was a little girl dressed up as a cat, one of her sisters was Carmen Sandiago, and the other was a hippy. Their mother wore an old aviator’s hat and I imagined that she was Amelia Earhardt.  There were pictures covering every inch of the bathroom.  I nearly felt guilty relieving myself. Once I had, I took one more amazed look at the intimate wallpaper and wondered what it would be like to have a family – I imagined that it must be a good feeling.  I took my beer off the back of the toilet and walked back into the house.

I next found myself down in the vegetable garden admiring the clumped dirt of a growing onion.  Behind me, the creek murmured as it passed from one unknown point to another.  In front of me, my classmates danced in the light. The whole night – the trees, the grass, the air – was damp, like a late night and early morning in May usually are.  I grabbed a lawn chair and positioned it next to the garden, close to the light, but close enough to still hear the creek.  I cursed myself for feeling so melancholy and took slow pulls of my beer. There was a small square of pavement in the yard and a foursome were kicking around a rubber playground ball.  Each team of two were trying to knock the ball of the pavement by using their feet, but the receiving team could return or defend by using their hands or feet – it was an extremely modified tennis.  One errant kick sent the ball rolling down towards my direction, flicking up moisture as it went.  I stood and leant to pick up the slick maroon sphere.

“Well, look who’s feeling lonely.”

It was Claire.

I laughed. “Senioritis,” I said and flicked her the ball.

“That’s bullshit.”

“I’m kidding.”

Claire turned and threw the ball back over. “Let someone else play.”  She stepped closer to me.  I pulled a can of beer out of my jeans pocket.  I cracked the the aluminum and let it drip off before handing it to her

“Now, that’s the gentleman I heard about.”

“My pleasure,” I said.

We stood and looked at the creek together.  She pointed out a spot in the dark where there was an old stone bridge that led across the water towards the Judgement Seat.  The bridge wasn’t in any danger of falling apart, she explained, the white paint that one of the old farmers painted had painted was just terribly cracked, which gave it a look of crumbling and falling.  It was as sturdy as it had ever been.  I told her that I would have to admire it in the light.

“You can see it tomorrow,” she said.

“What time is it?”

“You two should just spend the night.”

“You’ve got a thing for him.”

She pushed me.  We were both feeling loose and playful from the pleasant air of the night and the drinks that we had.  A playful moment between a boy and a girl when they are drunk and have no interest in each other sexually can often bring about one of life’s closest intimacies. I put my arm around her. The creek bubbled and splashed, barely seen.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“He likes you too.”

She put her arm around my shoulder and squeezed.  Then, we walked back up to the party, our arms hooked together.  Adam was stationed by her sisters, watching them play and kicking his legs in delight.  Claire detached from me. She gave me one joyfully restrained smile and then turned her light brown hair away from me and walked over to him.

“You need one of these?” a classmate of mine handed me a cup of keg beer.

    “Of course.”

    I took the cup and walked up the staircase of the wooden deck.  Since we were staying all night, I decided I would find a quiet place to call Emily.