Friday, July 31, 2009


Over the years in major league baseball, the occasional "floater", or eephus pitch, is a tantalizingly slow pitch. Sometimes it's a curve, sometimes it's just a pitch thrown so ridiculously slow it takes forever to get there and catches the hitter off guard. Observe:

That was Steve Hamilton's "Folly Floater". Dave LaRoche threw something referred to as the "La Lob". Now journeyman reliever RJ Swindle has been recalled by the beloved hometown Milwaukee Brewers. He throws an 85 MPH fastball, a slider, and a curveball so slow, and so tedious to get to the plate, it at times fails to register on the radar. God love 'im.

Swindle, by the way, is a perfect name for this cat, being that most hitters probably feel swindled when they take that falling meteor for a called strike, and swing and miss by 3 feet, as Carlos Delgado did earlier this season.

Look at the dude. Doesn't he look like he's up to something?

Thursday, July 30, 2009


As a kid growing up in Reagan-era America, I had one fear of the outside world. Things could be tumultuous at home with some illnesses and typical sibling infighting as the primary source of my domestic anxieties. But the fear outside my front door, the horror on the front page of the newspapers and leading off the 530 newscasts brought by Tom Brokaw every night was the dark beast of my mind-made nocturnal horror films. Nuclear Holocaust.

The haunting reminders were thrown at me on a nightly basis from all three network news teams. Sometimes I intentionally avoided watching the evening news with my parents in order to shelter myself from the barrage of increasingly distressing information. The verbiage of the whole messy conflagration between the United States and the Soviet Union were terms that a child of 12 should probably not comprehend, much less digest, but somehow I got it, and I was not particularly happy to do so.

Arms race, tactical nuke, MIRV buss, ICBM, ad infinitum were words that I feared and heard on a growing basis. It seemed like daily I would be briefed about one of the two nations, horns ensnared in the cold war, developing something so powerful that the yield of the weapon would be multiplied exponentially by "the bomb dropped on Hirsohima". Was this necessary, did we need to expand on destsruction so complete and extreme?

It seems it wasn't a desire to push the magnitude envelope, as much as it was one nation goading the other to stay ahead of it's rival's ability to annihilate the world. Reagan and Brezhnev, the two titans of atom-splitting might, would have been accurately portrayed on one of those main event boxing advertisement posters, staring each other down with resolution and barely restrained antagonism.

The nightmares I mentioned in passing earlier, still occur to this day. They feature myself sitting in some calm place of enjoyment, a cove of peace that I feel secure in and happy. I would be relaxed, fully absorbed in some activity that was pleasing to my psyche, whether it be throwing the rawhide around or simply vegetating in a lawn chair.

Then it happens.

A fearsome, monolithic mushroom cloud rises up in the distance. The titanic demon would be far enough away for me to avoid being decimated by the blast, yet close enough to awaken in me all the gut-wrenching dread of accumulated news-watching and headline-reading. I then snap up from the dread sleep, wide-eyed and in a confused state of agitated pensiveness. It was awful, and could become a load that would take me days to shake loose.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

DEALING WITH IT : A Portrait of Hatred in one Part

God would damn dusk, if it wasn't hell already. It has a pointless pink sky that somehow despite it's bright tone seems to muffle light. As if it were a brief time period where the clock stops and and life becomes something you should perhaps be a little more careful around, be wary of. The headlights of my car do absolutely nothing to cut the dimness, and it's too dark to make out some of the shapes that cross my path on the road. I sink my 2006 Ford Taurus further into a massive wooded area that is like something made out of a mixture of Cajun swamp and the northern woods of Alaska. It is grimy, cluttered, foreboding and does not seem to welcome life.
I pass through this wooded damp in my car and see another vehicle shimmering toward me in the opposing lane. It's headlights are not on. Not that they would help. This car is spectral as it almost seems to just fade in from nothingness.
"I know whose car that is." I think, almost startling myself with my own inner monologue. Did I think it, or speak it?

It doesn't matter.

A flash of static impedes my vision. Dead air. When sight restores, everything I see is tinged red. Seeing the world through blood-colored glasses, now. My breathing is now rushed. The other car is a 1940's Ford, jet black, and the driver is Cancer. He turns his head and looks at me. It's not a smile, nor a frown,...his facial expression just is.

I slam on the brakes of my 1969 Dodge Charger and wheel the Beast around.
I've seen that black car before many times. I've been in this movie prior to this. I lean over, reaching ito the hidden holster under my glove box and pull out my Beretta, finger the clip, check the action. The piece is fine, and in this vision, Cancer becomes tangible. It is now on.

As the Charger runs him off the road, his Ford shudders to a stop in the ditch. I'm rocket-sled harnessed into my seat, so I barely feel the jar. I get out, walking hard down to the Ford. It's leaning almost on it's side, steam dancing through the bent hood, seeming to enjoy playing in dusk's unsubtle shitpile. I kick the glass in on the driver's side door, reach in, and pull Cancer out.
Not an attractive one is he, but I'm used to looking at him. An eyeless black wraith that has a cowling set of wings instead of arms. He smiles like a chainsaw. I grin back as I turn and see my father in the back seat of the Ford. He looks to the floor of the massive vehicle and just shakes his head. Tears? I don't give a damn. I put the Beretta in Cancer's jagged-toothed mouth and cock it.
Clenching my teeth, I utter, "You've taken so many." My grin grows wider so slowly, I can almost hear it. "I am gonna shut you off."
There's a low chuckle from Cancer, as we've done this before. I pull the trigger repeatedly until all 16 in the clip and the one in the pipe exhausted and the clink of falling shells stops it's consistent jingle. They are not unlike coins to pay the ferryman. I could almost have danced to their twinkling rhythm. Right now, I don't feel like dancing. No, not at all.

Cancer squints his empty eyes and shakes his head. I turn to see Father in the back seat mouthing inaudible words.
"Robby, let it go."

That wave of brief static is there again, and my vision restores minus the crimson. I shake my own head out of this dark fantasy, as dusk continues to suck the light out of the air. I see a Doe and her fawns grazing on the crisp fall grass on the side of the road, from behind the Taurus' windshield. I continue shaking my head. It's clear now, but filled with the feeling of foolishness, and not a little bit of embarassment due to the game I just played in my head.

Cancer of course, is not a being. He doesn't walk the streets freaking out children. He doesnt call your house in the middle of the night. He drives no ancient black car of death with his loved victims in the back seat. He's just a motherfucker who doesn't watch where he steps because more often than not, he doesn't have to.
I put my beretta, back in the sleeve, the safety never having come off. It's black metal now glistens with my perspiration, my palms now mirror the texture of the pistol's grip.
I think I just heard my dead snap the holster shut.
See, the car is still a Taurus, it never turned a rubber burning sphere in the country road to seek my vengeance. I am facing the same direction as when the static came, just with a few more miles behind me. I shake the self-induced stiffness out of my hand as I accelerate. I grit my teeth into the blackening sky and flip the radio on.

The Stones: "I see a red door and I want to paint it black".


I flip to AM: "....another body found this afternoon, as Milwaukee's record murder count rises by one..."


I tap the CD button...

Misfits: "Come on, sweet death, one last caress...."

I punch the off button and it snaps in half, clicking to the floormat. Looking ahead, shivering, the sun crawls down the sky like a tear.

So be it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009



A ridiculously boiling hot day. Nuts. And I was one of many who were seeking shelter from the swelter by browsing the vinyl of the Camelot Record Store in the Wausau Center Mall. Some prototypical dance-synth-pop had just faded over the in-store sound system. I don't remember what the cut was and why would I after 20 years?

A gust of acoustic blues starts shortly thereafter and it grabs me. Not because it so different stylistically from the garbage that just ended, but because it's a bona fide hook. The vocals start, a gruff tone that knifes through the riff like William Wallaces broadsword through one of King Lonshanks' thugs. For a brief moment I question it.

"Indeed, is this old Stones?"

Then the METAL starts, a thudding riff that is the distorted electric twin of the acoustic blues that opened the track. The mournful swoon that voiced the lyrics previously has become a screeching falsetto. Damn, I know that voice.

That's Tom Kiefer. And this is Cinderella.

I bought the album, "Long Cold Winter" based upon the opening 60 seconds of a song called "Bad Seamstress Blues". Still listening to it to this day. As a matter of fact I still have that vinyl copy.

There were a lot, and I mean a lot of hair metal bands in the 80's. Most were awful.

But Cinderella wasn't just a good hair metal band, indeed in my opinion they were the best of all of them, they were a damn fine rock and roll band. "Long Cold Winter" is a track by track resume of why.

"Bad Seamstress Blues" is a kicking rock metal blues song, as strong an opener as there was in the 80's. All hair metal bands needed their ballad and the one here is far better than any of the claptrap snoozers put out by Winger, Poison, or Motley Crue. "Don't Know What You Got", (laugh if you must) is a nice melody with some well executed lyrics and chorus. It is mournful, like it or not. Tom Kiefer was a damn fine songwriter, and shouldn't be grouped in with the Nikki Sixxs, Bret Michaels, and Kip Wingers of the world.

Further proof of Kiefer's versatility is when his voice becomes a baritone for the first verse of "Coming Home", a country song, yes you read right, and the bastards pull it off. The title track is almost as good a ballad as "Dont Know". "Gypsy Road", "Fire and Ice", and especially "Fallin Apart at the Seams" are all great rockers, better than most of the metal SINGLES of the time period.

Kiefer, along with vet Andy Johns, and bassist Eric Brittingham produced the album. This goes a little ways more in exemplifying why he wasn't your average heavy metal bear. Not too many hair metal (getting sick of that term here) purveyors were producing their own records.

20 years later, Cinderella is still by and large grouped in with the Aqua Net Aquanauts of those Heavy Metal Knights of Olde, and to me, it's a shame.

Cinderella was indeed the one band of all the goobers that showed up for the Big Dance who fit into the glass slipper.