Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Legend of the Ski Lodge in Dubois Pennsylvania

"I don't buy this beer, I just rent it."

In the men's room of the Ski Lodge bar in Dubois, Pennsylvania this is what passes for conversation. The genesis of this witty remark was a short, balding guy in his early 40's who had evidently had his fill of Straub Beer. The sound of the discarded beer pounded the porcelain and, much to my chagrin, was accompanied by the cacophonous drum roll of flatulence. Part of me wanted to laugh, another part of me was overcome by a strange sadness and yet another part of me wanted to cut my own piss short and run for the hills that were in no short supply in West Central Pennsylvania.

Without tearing my gaze away from the poster for a local cover band (ANNOUNCING THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN OF THE WORLDS GREATEST GARAGE BAND- TEN TILL!) that was directly above the urinal, I nodded. Pulling up my zipper I decided to eschew the act of washing my hands and without pause made my way back to the bar.

While 90% of sports minded America was watching the Cavs-Magic Eastern Conference Finals, we were squarely in Penguin country. That means hockey. Which, outside of the fights and mullets that occur both on the ice and in the stands, I find terminally boring. No matter, the big screen TV behind the bar was tuned to the Detroit-Chicago NHL playoff game relegating me to people watching while sipping my Straub (a really nice local beer from St. Mary's, PA, by the way).

And oh were there some people to be watched!

There were hulking tattooed Roughnecks working the local natural gas mines, middle aged prepsters in khakis and Calloway golf polos and orange tanned twentysomthings to observe. I started chatting with the roughneck, who ended up being a helluva nice guy, and he attempted to explain hockey to me. As I absently pretended to listen I noticed the crowd part near the entrance and a buzz invade the air.

And there he was. An aging hair metal refugee who everybody--and I mean everybody--happily referred to as "Rockin Robert." Rockin' Robert had graying hair styled like the rhythm guitarist from LA Guns or Dokken (that means BIG) and had a long star-shaped earring dangling from his left ear. Tight acid washed jeans clung to his thin legs while a black silk button up shirt fell from his narrow shoulders. Then I noticed his shoes, which were a non sequitur in motion: white Seinfeld style Reebok tennis shoes. As the aforementioned cover band went through their laborious sound check (Hey guys, the Rolling Stones have a shorter sound check . . .you are a bar band in the middle of nowhere-act accordingly) Rockin Robert moved through the bar collecting back slaps and handshakes with a eerie knowing smile on his face. I was set on speaking to this legend.

On the miniature stage that was at the other end of the bar, Ten Till (WORLD"S GREATEST GARAGE BAND!) slaughtered Zeppelin's "All of My Love" but Rockin' Robert showed a thin smile of approval as he met eyes with the lead singer of the band. This seemed to do wonders for the band as they ambitiously moved on to one of my favorite cheese out songs, "Tears of Jupiter."

I plotted my approach.

Please do not misinterpret this as some quasi-urbane elitist blog post making fun of Rockin' Robert. In fact, I was mystified by him and was very eager to hear his story. There had to be something behind his nickname, something propping up his status in Dubois . . .something about his look. I had met guys like him during my first bartending job at the Oakwood Bar and Grille in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and they always had a great backstory. Long nights, hot women, a chance meeting with Dennis DeYoung from Styx in the parking lot of the Akron Agora, etc.

Yet I never did get to speak to Rockin' Robert as I just couldn't summon the nerve to do so (and at the conclusion of the boring NHL game I persuaded the barmaid to turn on the Cavs game just in time to see LBJ hit a buzzer beating three to beat the Magic).

So I sit here in my cubicle in Times Square, thinking about the next time that I visit Dubois (my grandmother basically lives in her camper there during the summer) and what questions I will ask Rockin' Robert . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jimmy on Decatur Street in New Orleans

Jimmy likes to walk. He likes to walk slowly down sidewalks speckled with cigarette butts and used condoms. While he ambulates he never lets his gaze rise much higher than the waist of any oncoming human traffic. The realization that he is a bit off was not something that he is without; in fact, a certain perverse pride bubbles within him when he thinks of just how different he is from the men in shiny oxford shoes, the boys in polychromatic Nike Air Force I's and the women in cherry red Mary Jane's.

One afternoon, on Decatur Street, just past Esplanade, a car pulled up and its door opened slowly. A few footsteps clicked and a juvenile snicker emanated from the idling car. As usual, Jimmy did not look up. A voice, languorously southern and whiskey soaked, called to him.

"Hey boy. Hey, why you and yer fambily tink yer better den evrybody else, huh?"


An old Rolling Stones song, "Sway," played on the jukebox of The Matador, the bar owned by the guy from an old TV show. Somebody asked for an Abita Amber.

"Hey boy, I'm talkin' te ya. Look at me boy! Ya'll never talk to nobody and yr poppy just stares out de winda all day. Boy, I said stop and look at me!!"

Jimmy stopped and looked at the man.

The man got back into his car quickly and sped off. Last anybody heard he was still driving 85 when he hit Bay St. Louis.

Jimmy walked to Canal Street, turned around, and walked back home to his shotgun apartment off of Elysian Fields.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Neil Young. Helpless. The Last Waltz

Actually too busy to put much through into a post, so how about a video to tide you over . . .

Taken from the best concert film of all time, Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz", I remember first seeing this scene while at an after hours party in the Glen Park neighborhood of SF. Everybody there kept mentioning the white substance lodged in Neil's nostril . . . Hmmmm.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Why do the Cleveland Indians Want to Ruin My Saturday?

Besides having to listen to the miscreants who spew their 'r' less Brooklynese ad naseum at all hours beneath my bedroom window, I woke up in a great mood. Its Saturday. I have turned off my Blackberry so as to not be bothered by bosses who do not respect the blessed weekend. A big bike ride is in my near future.

And then I opened up the paper (although it is hard to really consider the New York Post a real newspaper) and there it was staring up at me like a beaten puppy.

The Cleveland Indians, burdened with the lofty expectations of the media and amateurs like myself, are in dead last place in the AL Central with a record of 11-19. Not only are they dragging the bottom of one of the weakest divisions in baseball but they also have the worst record in the AL and the second worst record in the entire major leagues.

Thank God for the Washington Nats, right?

There is no shortage of blame to go around as Grady Sizemore is veering dangerously close to the dark and dreadful land of the overrated while striking out nearly every 4 plate appearances, Jhonny Peralta stranding runners in scoring position as if he were the skipper from Giligan's Island and Fausto Carmona has shown about as much control as Charles Bukowski at an open bar.

But the main culprit is the bullpen. Oh God our bullpen is atrocious. Look no further than the debacle that occurred in Boston on Thursday night where the hated Red Sox (remember when they used to be lovable? like the Cubs?) dropped a dozen in the 6th inning before our pen could record a single freaking out. Whether it be Raffy Perez or Betancourt, Masa Kobayashi or Jensen Lewis, Matt Herges or Vinny Chulk or even, dare I say it, Kerry Wood there is a terminal lack of confidence in any lead for our Wahoo Warriors and it hurts . . .

I wish that I could provide some solutions, but to be honest I can't. Just get hits with guys on base, don't let a fastball sit over the plate and try not to walk more than 4 guys an inning . . .

The good thing is this: when I was living in the Bay Area, it seemed like every year the Oakland A's would start about this slow then go on an absolute tear starting just before the All-Star break and win the usually mediocre AL West. That's all we can hope for. That Jake Westbrook adds a little something to the pitching staff, Grady gets contacts (or some cool glasses a la Ricky Vaughn) in order to see the ball while at the plate and that somebody-SOMEBODY- in our pen gets into a groove for all to fall in line behind.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NBA All Non-Tattooed Team

During a recent work day, non-work related email exchange with my colleague (and former Midwesterner) A.B, I found fodder for my latest blog post.

After I had mentioned that Ron Artest was quoted making light of the infamous fight between Indiana and Detroit a few years back (A.B hails from Indy) we got to discussing why the NBA just does not have the same appeal for us that it did in the 90’s. We agreed that the “the crappy egos and one man teams” were among the reasons but there was something else that was prodding us to a mutual disgust for Naismith’s peach basket game.

“When [during the NBA All-Star Game] I saw that Chris Paul didn’t have any tats, I couldn’t believe it. I thought he was being edited. To see someone WITHOUT their baby’s face or some hands praying or some sort of Egyptian scroll on their right forearm is a complete rarity,” A.B wrote.

Being one who views tattoos as, for the most part, an act of conformity under the guise of being a non-conformist, I agreed and thought about how pervasive “body art” (a term I use loosely, much in the same way that the tags on the side of every bodega in NYC might be called art by teenage graffiti aficionados) has become in the National Basketball Association. According to a 2008 article by Jonathan Abrams in the Los Angeles Times, “A decade ago, the Associated Press reported that 35% of NBA players were tattooed. Five years later that number had doubled . . . Today, one can watch an NBA playoff game and be treated to jumpers and alley-oops and tattoos -- lots and lots of tattoos. About 75% of NBA players have them.”

So who is my All-Non Tattooed NBA team? The guys that are listed below, at least to my knowledge, have no discernable tats—I can’t speak as to what might lurk below their uniforms—and still are among the top players in the game . . .

Center- Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Power Forward- Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons
Small Forward- Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers
Shooting Guard- Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat
Point Guard- (the aforementioned) Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

Honorable Mention: Steve Nash, Ray Allen, David Lee, Al Thornton, Charlie Villanuev

And, the All-Bad Tattoo Team—with the MHT (most hideous tats) award going to Barnes . . .

Center- Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
Power Forward- Chris Andersen, Denver Nuggets
Small Forward- Matt Barnes, Phoenix Suns
Shooting Guard- Allen Iverson, Detroit Pistons (you cant really describe this cannon as a point guard)
Point Guard- Delonte West, Cleveland Cavaliers