Sunday, November 09, 2008

Street Football

I guess every kid in the US of A has played street football or some variant of it. We certainly played our share of games. A day like today would have been perfect. Mild weather, the trees nearly stripped of their leaves, nothing much to do on a Sunday afternoon.
We played on S. Lincoln Ave and mostly in front of my house. The game was a passing game. Take ten steps down the sideline and cut across, Mick, you go long, then the snap and the count 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3Mississippi, 4 Mississippi, 5 Miss... and the rush and the pass. Or take ten steps and cut behind the Marx's Cadillac or everyone go long or the crisscross. Terry Fleming and Chris DeHart were often quarterbacks but sometimes they'd gang up on us and it would be me and Mick and Sam Stewart vs Gary Condell and Terry and Chris. This was a lopsided game because Sam couldn't catch a football to save his life and I had no arm but we played like it was the most important game in the world. Sometimes we won but mostly we'd lose.
The game was played on a macadam street so if you fell, or were pushed, you'd slide a few feet along the rough stones and ding your knees or your elbows. The palms of your hands.
We'd play all afternoon. Changing sides, changing players, new guys coming in, guys going home for dinner or a family trip, the game kept going. Once in awhile my father or Al Frank or my Uncle would join in to make us look like the knuckleheads we were. I remember one memorable day when Father Kernan from the Church of the Incarnation showed up. Running routes in his robes and smoking cigarettes. Might have been a curse or two.
There was a fierce competition to the games but there was great joy. The long bomb through the trees, the unexpected sight of Sam pulling down the ball in front of Chris DeHart, the sack, the surprise play, the Hail Mary, the hidden ball trick. It was a game with few rules and many, many arguments. Interference, he pushed me, you went before the count, how can we win with this team, at least give us Gary. Skinny little kids running for hours, my asthma would kick in but we'd keep playing. Ed Mossop or Johnny Hindman or Stewart DeHart and Bobby McQuaide would pass in and out of the games. A blur of hikes and counts and passes and the unexpected run or Charlie Flitcraft, fast as lightening turning a four yard toss into a touchdown. The goals were undefined, the scores forgotten or argued about. No kicking. Plenty of shoving.
The sun setting, the ball dark against the sky, the hands reaching, reaching, reaching.

Friday, November 07, 2008

My Name is Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the Group

I'm going to skip ahead a bit to senior year.  Only because tonight I read that Jimmy Carl Black of the Mothers of Invention had passed away at the age of 70.  The Mothers of Invention were one of the finest bands of the sixties.  Weird, truly experimental, and, well, fun.  They were funny and inventive and crazy.  I loved them the first time I heard them and I wasn't even on dope.
Besides Frank Zappa, the leader of the group, Jimmy Carl Black and Ian Underwood were my favorites.  Jimmy because of the quote that opens this post and Ian Underwood because of one the finest sax solos of all time on Uncle Meat with Ian Underwood whips it out.  God, I loved that band.  Because brown shoes don't make it and we could always make the water turn black.  Impish, insane, fun, musically complex.  The best sixties rock band ever.  Better than the Stones or the Beatles because they didn't give a fuck about the music industry.  In fact they were totally anti establishment even as they made fun of hippies and doo wop and everything under the sun.  
In some ways what is even more interesting about Jimmy Carl Black is not his work with Francis Vincent Zappa but his life.  His obit says that after the Mothers disbanded and his band failed he went to work painting houses with Arthur Brown.  Arthur Brown of "Fire"!  What a bizarre house painting company that must have been.  After that he worked in a donut shop.  One of my musical idols working in a donut shop while I was driving a truck after college.  If you had told me senior year in HS that in the late 70's me and Jimmy Carl would be on the same economic strata I'd have said you were nuts.
My friends from Rutgers and I went to see the Mothers at a Halloween show at the Capitol Theater in Passaic.  It was a raucous joy from beginning to end.  Within two years they were no more and Jimmy Carl was painting houses  in West Texas.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Elect Barack Obama

Wow!  What a wonderful night!  What a great country!  God Bless America!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election 2008

Well, it's crunch time.  Time to put up or shut up.  Vote.  If you don't you own what comes next.  Make a statement.  Obviously I'd prefer Barack Obama.  But vote for someone.  Don't sit home and say it doesn't matter it's just same old, same old.  It's not.
We have an extraordinary event happening right in front of us.  A black man who could be elected President.  A woman who could be Vice President.  In our lifetime!  Who would have thought.  A black man couldn't have gotten elected dog catcher when I was young and women didn't leave the home.  What an astounding moment in history.
Sure racists might give the office to McCain or Obama might turn out to be Jimmy Carter without a cardigan.  Any number of things could happen.  But one thing is sure...we're rid of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and their merry band of thieves.  Fuck em.  I've been waiting eight years for this day to come.  Let them slink out of town with their tails between their legs.
I'll be at the Christa McAuliffe School casting my vote at 6:15.  I'll be voting for my rights, for peace, and to preserve this great land.  If people in Iraq can give a fuck about voting so can we.  Vote.  
ps: Jeez was this a NY Times editorial or what?  I don't think it's a good idea to have that knucklehead Sarah Palin a heartbeat from the Presidency...especially when the President would be very, very old.  Not a good plan.  If she gets in we're more fucked than we were with bushcheneyrove.  Vote for Barack Obama.  

Sunday, November 02, 2008

HO Racing

I feel foolish talking about this shit now. Our country is at a crossroads, the world is in turmoil, the dogs of war are barking everywhere.
But in 1964 we became Aurora HO race car enthusiasts. We got our Aurora kits and laid out our layouts and began to race our little cars on little tracks in our basements. At the time there was a nationwide craze for 32nd scale tracks. There were racing tracks built all over the nation for people to bring their cars and race them against each other.
Not us. We bought the smaller size. Speed was the gig but speed on a small, small scale. Nonetheless the ability to make your car faster became a dominant impulse. We bought magazines and parts to soup up our cars. We were mini Ed Roths. We bought slicks for the rear tires and learned how to make our cars super fast.
We envied our friends layouts. As usual Terry had the coolest layout in the land. Trees and shit and the fastest car. All laid out on an 11' piece of plywood. Mine was small and in my basement and no one came to try out their cars.
We bought containers to carry our cars and we bought extra parts and we were mini mechanics. We sat like demented enthusiasts for hours at a time making little plastic cars race around and around and around. Not far from playing video games and killing aliens hours after hour after hour.
I remember one night in mid winter walking home from Terry's with my little beige plastic box and taking a bad spill on the ice and all my precious cars spilled out into the street.
I cried. I raged. I was filled with humiliation, not just for the fall and the loss but because my cars never were as good as Terry's. I was incompetent. I was just a chump. A fool.
When I got sick and fell outside my home one frigid January night I was made acutely aware of the parallels.
When I got home that night in the early sixties I told no one of my humiliation. I went upstairs and lay in my bed and felt smaller than I'd ever felt in my life. I wanted more than anything to be able to make my cars race like the wind. To have a cool track. To have people admire me and my passion.
Instead I spent that night picking up little electronic parts and rubber tires and tiny pieces of plastic under a cold January moon.
The things we care about seem so foolish. I could name dozens now equally stupid and I'm a grown man.