Thursday, September 30, 2010

the last champion

It was bittersweet for me to learn yesterday that Scot Shields, the last remaining link on the Angels to the team's 2002 World Championship, is likely to retire after the season ends on Sunday. And even if he doesn't retire, he would almost certainly not be a Halo in 2011. I was reminiscing a few weeks back with a good buddy of mine about the 2002 World Series and the way we clawed back from the brink of elimination, a 5-0 deficit to the Giants with one out in the seventh inning of Game 6, and went on to win the whole damn thing in seven games. It's wonderfully gratifying to be a dog for so long and then to finally have your day. The exhilaration of long deferred glory after it's finally achieved is something Yankee fans will never know. Winning means so much more when you've spent the vast majority of your life losing. The Angels made the playoffs in '79, '82 and '86, but they also had so many horseshit seasons, especially in the 90s, until at last, improbably, they won 99 games in 2002, after starting the season 6-14. They made it into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years as the wild card, and while they definitely were not the best or most talented team in baseball that year, they got hot at exactly the right time. Under-the-radar rookies and youngsters - Chone Figgins, Francisco Rodriguez and, yes, Scot Shields - made unexpectedly important contributions, as did scrappy gamers like David Eckstein, Scott Spiezio, and Adam Kennedy, and big-time vets like Garrett Anderson, Troy Percival, and Tim Salmon. The Angels got past the Yankees in the first round, which would have been enough for me at the time. But the Angels were a Team of Destiny that year, and they finished off the Twins in the ALCS, making it to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. My buddy and I went to Game 1 of the Series at the Big A that year, courtesy of a connection my dad has through the MLBPA. The stadium was still called Edison Field at the time in spite of the recent rolling blackouts that had sullied the reputations of all the major power concerns doing business in California. This was also just one year removed from 9/11. With the OC being what it is, the vibe at the stadium was nauseatingly over-the-top in its belligerence and chauvinism masquerading as love of country: Fighter planes roaring over the stadium during the National Anthem; douchebags waving their flags; the full cavity probe from the Homeland Security workers upon our entry into the stadium...The Angels lost that Game 1 of the 2002 World Series, but the most memorable thing about it was the home run Barry Bonds hit in the second inning off lefty Jarrod Washburn, a shot that had to have traveled at least 525 feet on a high line drive. The ball looked like an missile flying through the air, and it sucked the air and life right out of the Big A when it finally landed toward the back of the right field pavilion. I had never seen, and have not seen since then, a ball hit so far, so fast. Thinking about it now serves as a reminder that the 2002 World Series was the absolute pinnacle of the steroid era in baseball. The rumors I've heard are that the Angels clubhouse that year was like a makeshift PED lab. Exhibit A: Ben Weber always seemed like he was ready to eat your kids and pets alive if you looked at him the wrong way. That's a conversation for another time. This is supposed to be in honor of Shieldsy... Scot Shields survived the steroid era and was arguably the best eighth-inning pitcher in the game for a stretch of about 3 or 4 years. He was an indispensable part of what I like to think of as the new breed of Angels teams that emerged in the naughties, when the organization began to consistently commit itself to winning and making the playoffs every year. It also bears mentioning that Francisco Rodriguez would in all likelihood not have had the amazing success he had, and would not have become the incredibly rich man he is today, if Scot Shields had not been around to set up all those games for him. Shields was a study in gritty durability. He threw a 95mph heater with filthy-dirty movement, and his rubber arm enabled him to do it night after night. He also seemed like a really good teammate. He was a fixture in the Angels dugout long after he was placed on the DL for an extensive period of time last year, imparting knowledge to the youngsters and just being there because that's what you do when you buy into the team concept. I actually hope he does end up retiring. I admire ballplayers who know when they're done and don't try to get one more contract after they're past their sell-by date, particularly if they've already made plenty of money. Why be greedy? It's so much more dignified when a ballplayer recognizes that his time has come and gone and doesn't try desperately to hang on. I suppose this is easy for me to say as no one will ever offer me unimaginable riches to ply my trade. But whatever Shieldsy decides to do, he's been a great Angel. I always felt confident when Sosh gave him the ball, always knew that the game was on the verge of being just another Halo victory. Good luck, Scotie, and thank you...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

sore loser

Something happens to me when I'm on the verge of getting what I want. I sabotage myself. The pop-psyche script writes itself: Low self-esteem prevents me from succeeding. I don't feel like I deserve to win. Fair enough, but I wish I had what it takes to reverse the things I do to undermine myself. My twenty years in and out of therapy haven't helped much on this front... About six weeks ago, I played the tennis match of my life in the local YMCA 4.0 Men's Championship Tournament. These were ok players, not great. It's the Y, after all, which is just as well since I've lost a step or two as I've gotten older. I don't get to a lot of balls I used to track down. I have to pick my spots. I played a guy who's frankly better than I am, but I managed to win the first set in a tie-breaker. I was behind 2-5 in the second set when I felt my hip and my hamstring start to get hinky. These are chronic physical problems that I can manage but never really solve. The combination of stretching, anti-inflamatories and vodka is the best I can do. In any case, I could barely move between points, but somehow I dug down and found something. I thought to myself, 'I'm not gonna let this cocksucker take me to a third set.' I knew a third set meant I'd lose. It was one of the few times I can ever remember - not just in tennis but in life more generally - where I adopted a winning mentality. I fought for every point, making shots I almost never make, fighting against the agony in my leg, and I won the next five games in a row, taking the set and the match, 7-6, 7-5. My opponent looked stunned afterwards. 'You were a monster out there,' he said. 'I wanted no part of you once you turned it on.'

Usually I can't turn it on. I crumble. In a more typical scenario, I would have lost the second set 6-2 and then hobbled my way to a 6-0 loss in the third. Maybe this explains why I'm a Met fan. It's easy for me to identify with them... I hate competition because for me competition means losing. I was seeing a gal a few years ago, for instance. I liked her a lot, but she sealed the outcome of our time together when she told me it was between me and some other guy she was seeing at the same time, at which point I withdrew from her because I knew she'd choose him over me. And then there was another woman during a recent visit back east, someone I'd had a huge crush on and lusted after for years, until finally we found ourselfves together at the same party. Before I knew what was what, we were talking to each other, touching, flirting. Everything I would want to have happen in this situation was happening. It was like watching a movie of what I would want my life to be like if only I were more like the guy I want to be. I walked her home. She invited me upstairs. Clothes went flying all over the place. It was all just a little too good for me. I had some kind of twisted need to turn this ideal turn of events into a negative. Just as I was about to finally get what I wanted, I couldn't get to it. My body wouldn't cooperate. Nada. And what's a guy supposed to do when this happens? How do you explain the wet noodle when you've got a beautiful naked woman in the room with you? Do you make excuses? Do you just carry on as if it's no big deal? Can you make a plea for understanding and hope she'll still be able to see the good side of you in spite of how fucked in the head you are? Oral sex has always been my trump card - my, um, ace in the hole (?) -but it has surprised me to find that some women are actually self-conscious about having men do this to them, so it's not a cure all. Sometimes it's simply not what they want.

I digress. I've been thinking about the way I lose when I win and I win when I lose, but no matter which one it is I basically lose, if that makes sense. It's been on my mind ever since I wrote my last post where I talked about my book for the first time in a long while. I should pause here for a moment and say that I feel weird about calling this thing, whatever it is, 'my book', 'my novel', 'my manuscript', as this gives it a kind of heft that it doesn't really have in my mind. I feel equally embarrassed when a friend of mine introduces me to others as 'a writer.' I'm not a writer. A writer is someone who makes a living with his writing. Norman Mailer was a writer. Jonathan Franzen is a writer. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a writer. I am a guy who likes to write, and I would prefer to be introduced this way... I haven't really worked on "the book" in two years. I quit on it just as I was peaking creatively. I had been writing feverishly for a few years and really started to hit my stride. I was lucky enough to gain acceptance to an artist's colony in Virginia, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. It's expected of you when you go to these colonies that you'll do a reading of your work. I found this prospect very intimidating. There are some heavy hitters at VCCA, and the thought of sharing my work with them was not one I relished in the slightest. But I couldn't refuse, so I chose my best chapter and read it to a group of about 25 writers, artists, and composers... They ate it up. I'd never gotten so much validation for anything in my life. Could it be that I was actually pretty at writing, that maybe I had some talent, a good ear for dialogue and a wonderful way of telling a story, as one woman, a best selling author, put it?

...You have to understand as I'm telling you this that I've been conditioned to think that nothing I do is good enough, that I never measure up. The roots go deep. Because of my fucked up family tree, I have always operated with a fixed assumption that there's something intrinsically wrong with me. My parents never wanted to discuss my bio dad much with me. I can't say I blame them. It probably seemed like such a potentially volatile issue to raise, the fact that he was an alcoholic who abandoned me when I was an infant. Still, I did the math and knew there was something different about me, but it took me a long time to piece together what it was, and the avoidance of the topic led me to internalize it as something shameful. Would I have done things differently than my parents did them? I don't know. It's much easier to pick things apart when you're no longer living the circumstances in real time, especially when there's so much more hyper-awareness these days about the consequences of every little thing parents do to, with and for their kids. My parents were doing what they thought was best for me and for the family, shielding all of us from the shit my bio dad left in his wake... But I've also never quite amounted to what was expected of me. I was sent to see armies of tutors and shrinks and specialists, all of whom were trying to figure out why I didn't perform well in school, why I was more interested the Who and the Thing than I was in learning things that are actually 'important.' I was an underachiever with murky origins. I never felt like I was attractive, or witty, or worthwhile, and I would act out on my frustration, playing the part of the lovable clown who'd make everybody laugh with his maladjusted ways. When I meet people from my past today, they invariably tell me I was the funniest guy they knew. Funny like how? Like I'm a clown? Like I fuckin' amuse you? How the fuck am I so funny? They always expect me to start making them laugh again. My father used to ask me, 'are they laughing with you or laughing at you? For me this is a false distinction. My humor has always come from the same place. The preposition doesn't change its source... So there I was at VCCA, everybody telling me how much they liked my writing. For the next two weeks while I was in residence there, I wrote some of the best stuff I've ever written - tight, suspensful, funny, poignant stuff. I finally was sublimating all my inner anguish and turning it into something good. I returned to LA feeling energized. For the first few weeks I continued to write every day. Sometimes the demands of my work schedule meant that I could only write for an hour on a given day, but there were other days when I'd come home from work and write for hours on end.

Eventually, though, the old mentality snuck back in and the writing tapered off. I began to look at everything I'd written and I'd find all kinds of flaws. I've heard people say that you should listen to your inner child. I think I do this, but my inner child says you can't, you won't, you shouldn't, you're not good enough, why bother? VCCA is an artifical environment, a cocoon where residents are shielded from reality. It reminds me of the tuberculosis sanitarium in the Swiss Alps depicted in The Magic Mountain. It's an escape from messy reality. There's actually a sign on the fence at the end of the driveway as you leave VCCA that says The Real World Starts Here. No joke. It's much easier to have confidence and peace of mind when you're in an environment specifically designed to remove you from the worries, aggravations and doubts you have to contend with in your real life. The colony was a place where I felt I could win. I felt comfortable with success there. My real day-to-day existence is so much harder. I'm wondering if I will ever be able to generate enough confidence and intellectual passion to return to the book? Can I do it in the midst of all the petty problems I face everyday, and will the book still seem relevant and interesting to me if I can? I'm not sure at this point, but even the losers get lucky sometimes. That's what Tom Petty tells me anyway...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Wolf King of LA

The days are becoming shorter and the sunsets are starting to get good. I saw some incredible colors in the sky last night, but I start to feel uneasy this time of year as darkness comes a little earlier everyday. People are dead wrong when they say LA doesn't have seasons. We have winter, it's just a different kind of winter. The wet weather depresses me. I wish I could hibernate through it... The purples and pinks and oranges last night gave me a hankering to hear John, The Wolf King of LA for the first time in a few years. The album feels like an old friend. I don't play it that often anymore because it conjures up a lot of intense emotions and makes me very aware of the passage of time. From a second story window, caught a glimpse of someone's life, and it was mine, and my face was dark and dirty, and I'd been crying. Papa John sings with such casual warmth. There's sympathy in his voice, and generosity, too. There's not many singers who can pull that off. I might be tempted to call it plainspoken singing, except that this somehow detracts from the wisdom it conveys. The only other guy I can think off hand who sings in the same way is Jerry Garcia.

The ugly things I've read about Papa John over the years have never detracted from my love for the Mamas and the Papas. They only had a handful of good songs, but so much of the enjoyment I get from their music comes through the atmosphere it creates. My dad had If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. He was a lot groovier than I ever gave him credit for back then. He straddled the pre and Post WWII generation in a very interesting way. He loves him his Frank Sinatra and Glen Miller, but he also loves the Beatles, Donovan and the Mamas and the Papas. ...I practically wore the grooves out of the Mamas and the Papas record when I was a kid. The sleeve is crazy, with all of them piled in the bathtub, next to the toilet. I used to fixate on that toilet. No shocker there. California Dreamin' in particular always made me feel so good, with its perfect harmonies, Denny's angusihed singing, and the hep cat flute solo. I can picture my dad listening to that song, wearing a red turtleneck sweater and sporting some groovy sideburns. It's amazing to think that I've been listening to the Mamas and the Papas for 35 years, especially since they're such an LA phenomenon, even if they were transplanted from Greenwhich Village. They totally bought into the California Dream. They were outsiders, but they made this place their own and became the ultimate insiders...

Wolf King is about five years after the heyday of the Mamas and the Papas and it evokes its time and place perfectly. I tried to write a novel about the Wolf King world for about six or seven years but eventually I got knocked off course. Any self confidence I've ever had has been extremely fragile. One minute I'm flying high and feeling in control of my creative powers, the next I'm assuming the fetal position in the bathtub. And then when I emerge from the dark corridors of depression and anxiety, I just feel blank. The novel I was writing became so big, with so many characters and so many lurches forwards and backwards time. I didn't feel up to the task. I was - and I am - afraid of failure. But I fail all the time elsewhere, so what's the big deal if there's one more? Failure is an option. Maybe I'll begin to post some excerpts from the novel here as a way of attempting to get some confidence back. I enjoyed writing it until doubt started to creep in. But there's no pressure at all. It's not like I would expect the novel to ever be published, so it's something I should be able to do simply because I love writing...

Wolf King has a lovely sedated vibe, with weepy pedal steel that makes you feel like you're a character in Brewster McCloud, or some other blurry movie from the period. I love the impressionistic imagery of Papa John's observations. And the wine he spilled stained her pillow red. Robbie Robertson once said of Neil Young's After the Gold Rush that the words made him feel like he was in the songs and that they applied to his life, even though he didn't really know what Neil was singing about. That's pretty much the best thing that can be said about a song, that it transcends it's literal meaning takes on a universality. That's exactly how I feel about Wolf King. I used to listen to it a lot when I was first exploring LA and the city was opening up to me. I fell hard for Emma, a woman from New Zealand. Here in the city's heat I'm weeping, keeping a night watch again. That period of my life seems like it was 100 years ago. Where did all the time go?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pop Rocks

Can I just admit upfront that I'm a big Katy Perry fan? I listen to very little new music these days, but she does it for me. I was waiting on line at my lunch place the first time I heard "I Kissed A Girl (and I liked it)." It cut right through the din. I love when that happens in a grocery store, or if you rent a car and the radio is tuned to a Top 40 station. Some of my sweetest childhood memories are of listening to what at the time was called AM Gold. Brandy what a good wife you'd be. American woman. Alone again, naturally... I know Katy Perry's music is an example of the fetish character in music and the regression of listening. I know those songs are made by evil doctors working in some corporate boardroom overlooking Sunset. I know the songs are focus grouped with 12-year-olds. It doesn't matter. The only thing that counts is that it's good. I love great pop. If a song has a perfect hook or just something somewhere that hits the right note in the right way, I'm putty in your hands. And I like her style. It's brash, but she has a sense of humor about herself. She also gets points for being engaged to Russell Brand.... And have you seen this...

The 2010 All Meth Lab Team

Our dedicated staff here at the Lonely One has been working feverishly around the clock with the Baseball Writers Association of America to elect the 5 MLB players who most embody the essence of what we like to call Skankee Pride. These titans of the tattoo parlor, those white trash whippetsnappers who make more money than god but can't get seated at any restuarant that's not a Denny's or Claim Jumper, comprise your 2010 All Meth Lab Squad. Congratulations oh denizens of the double-wide, and may you go as far in life as your jet skis, snowmobiles and winnebagos will take you...









*Team Captain*


And the 2010 Night Train Lifetime Achievement Award goes to who else but...


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?

Let me tell you about Gene and Randy. They don't know each other, and I'll never introduce them because they're from two separate parts and periods of my life. I don't like to mix people who don't know one another, who don't have a shared context beyond knowing me. My sister and I call this 'sphere mixing.' I'm not a good sphere mixer. It makes me nervous, makes me feel like I have to be the one who smoothes things over and makes sure everybody is having a good time. I can't deal with that pressure. So I'll talk about Gene and Randy separately...

Last Saturday night, I had one of the most enjoyable evenings I've had in a long time. I made plans to have dinner and hang out with Gene. Gene is a writer by trade, and he's a damn good one. He's published several excellent books and he's been a journalist for 25 years. He hails from the Midwest and has the burly build to prove it. He speaks with a Midwestern accent. It's not quite as pronounced as what you hear in Fargo, but it's not far from it. His meals invariably involve meat, cheese, and starch. He drinks a lot of beer. His teams are the Cubs and the Tigers. He has an extra special place in his heart for the MC5, the Stooges, and Funkadelic. He's an authentic Midwesterner. ...Gene's physical largeness is not off putting at all. On those rare occasions when I've had a chance to spend time in the Midwest, I've tended to look down my nose at what in my nastier moments I like to call the Fat Slobs of Flyover Country. More class and regional snobbery on my part, I guess. I like telling people that being in the Midwest does wonders for my self-esteem. It makes me feel sexy in a way that I never feel in Body-Beautiful LA. But I never feel like I'm better than Gene. His size is an integral part of his overall cuddliness. When he hugs you hello and goodbye, you feel enveloped in his warmth and good vibes. He's a rotund, pleasure seeking missile. Gene loves him his food, his drink, his doobie wah, his ladies... Yes, that's right, his ladies. He may be overweight, very overweight in fact, but he does well with the ladies. They dig him because he lives the right way. He doesn't give a shit. He doesn't get cheated out of life. He lives well, and you can choose to live well with him or go away. His approach to life is so different from mine. I tend to live scared, rarely taking risks, rarely opening myself up to the possibility of unqualified happiness. I've mentioned before that I don't do in the moment. I'm always worried about what's around the corner. I don't know what Gene's inner demons are, and we all have these demons, but he appears to live with so much more openness than I do, knowing that we all go around just once, knowing that when you die they put you in a box so that you can decompose underground. And that's it. There's no sweet hereafter, so you may as well get all the good stuff in with the life you've been given. I wish I could exist with this kind of abandon, but it just seems I'm constitutionally incapable of it. Still, this doesn't mean I can't at least taste a little of what it's like when I hang out with people like Gene...

Gene knows so much about music, but not in a penis jousting kind of way. Are you familiar with this term, 'penis jousting?' When I was in college, I hung out with a very serious intellectual crowd of mostly men. I had a female friend who was on the outside looking in at these guys, and when they would pontificate on heavy socio-philosophical subjects - the future of capitalism, the relationship between commodity fetishism and alienation, etc. - not hearing one another as they discoursed, raising their voices for the express purpose of having others hear how brilliant they were, dropping all kinds of references to Hegel and and Sartre, my friend would turn to me - she knew I was an imposter/wannabe among these folks - and she'd say, 'there they go again with their penis jousting.' It got to be a running joke. Whenever one of these heavy-duty conversations would start, she and I would look at each other and say, 'prepare for the joust!' Nobody knew what we were talking about, which made the joke that much more satisfying. The term stuck in my mind and is equally applicable to rock geeks who try and one-up each other with their grasp of esoteric rock knowledge. It's depicted with varying degrees of success in High Fidelity. This is a roundabout way of saying that Gene is most definitely not a penis jouster. He loves his music for the sake of the music itself, and he's always open to things he hasn't heard before. Openness of this sort is an important quality to have, in my opinion. I like people who are curious, who ask questions and are enthusiastic, who always believe that there's one more band or singer or song that will just tear the roof off the mother sucker...

Gene lives in a great Bachelor pad in the Angeleno Heights. If you can imagine what Mad Men would look like like if it was set in Palm Springs, that's his apartment. The furniture's mostly white leather, modern design. The place has a groovy fireplace and shaggy rugs. There's even some tiki lamps strategically placed throughout... Gene is a very good host. He makes a mean gin and tonic. He asks you what music you want to hear. It's a tough question because he's got so much of it. I feel like telling him, "I wanna hear it all!" And it's not just music on an iPod. He collects LPs too. They're stacked all over the place. I left the music question up to him. I'm always afraid that my choice will not be just right. I defer the responsibility to others when it comes to choosing music, unless I'm by myself. The other thing I should mention here is that Gene's also a collector of reel-to-reel tapes. Remember them? He's got a Mission Impossible-style reel-to-reel player. A few minutes after I arrived at his house on Saturday, he he said to me, 'get a load of this,' and then proceeded to play me bits of the White Album on reel-to-reel. It did not self destruct after five seconds. It did sound fucking incredible. I've listened t0 the White Album thousands upon thousands of times in my life, and I've never heard such differentiation between the component parts of the songs as I did when Gene played it. I couldn't believe it. The guitar solo in Happiness is a Warm Gun was so low, with just enough fuzz around the smacked-out edges. I asked Gene if we could hear the solo again. He advised against it telling me that you have to let the afterglow of a sound like that settle into your brain. I usually don't have that kind of discipline, but he's right. The fun was just starting...

It's a short hop from the Angeleno Heights to Chinatown. For some reason, you can now get Vietnamese food in Chinatown, so we went and had Pho. I usually don't love Pho. To me it tastes like dishwater with noodles. But this place Gene took me to, buried in an obscure strip mall off Broadway, was great. I had a bowl of Pho with thin slices of steak and brisket. We shared some sumptuous spring rolls. We drank Vietnamese beer. But the best part of the dinner was the conversation. He talked about his divorce, I talked about my ambivalence about relationships. Both of us are coming around to the conclusion that we probably don't want to have kids. He told me that he's always thought of me as the type of guy that would definitely have kids. I told him that my juvenilia doesn't necessarily mean I'd be a good parent, but I thanked him for the compliment all the same. We talked about women, the kind we like, the kind we dislike, the kind we have no feeling for one way or the other. He agreed with me that a woman doesn't really begin to come into her true beauty until she turns 40. We talked baseball and how one's approach to watching the game changes when your team is completely out of the race. You wait for the roster expansion in September and hope that one of the kids in the farm system might be the next Pujols or Lincecum. You can watch the game in a more detached manner, the absence of emotion in some ways making the viewing experience more pleasant... About half way through the meal I remember thinking that I was really enjoying myself and felt happy and content. I wondered why all my relationships with other people, men and women alike, couldn't be this satisfying, where I feel like I'm getting as much out of it as I give. It's not even that it was an unusually special evening. It's more that Gene was present and engaged. He asked me questions and took an interest in what and how I was doing. He drew on his experiences not simply to talk about himself, but to shed light on things that I go through, anxieties and doubts I have, as well as faint hopes. And we hadn't even gotten to the best part of the evening yet.
Back at Gene's apartment, he poured us some cognac and rolled a big fat bomber. The shit was strong. I've built up an ok tolerance at this point in my life, but goddamn! Sometimes the Green Cross can throw a monkey wrench into an otherwise pleasant evening if it hits you the wrong way and you get overly self conscious, or if the person you're with starts getting weird and you see a side of them that you wish you hadn't seen. We've all been through this. The freak out. The buzz kill. The bummer. Wavy Gravy calming you down in the bad trip tent. I've learned to control this over the years, but it still happens now and then if I get my hands on a speedy strain. There's nothing worse than a speedy strain. Nothing. It's why I'm an indica guy. Leave the sativa to the plebeians and the college kids. Gene's J was a perfect indica. I didn't confirm this because not everybody is as detail oriented (read: anal retentive) about their tea as I am, and I don't want to give people the impression that I'm some kind of wake 'n bake aficionado, even if I do occasionally fantasize about traveling to Amsterdam one of these years for the Cannabis Cup, but I knew from the way the stuff affected me that it was a high-grade indica. And then Gene said, "I have just the thing." He ambled over to one of his many mountains of LPs and pulled out a mono copy of Notorious Byrd Brothers. It's one of my two or three favorite albums of all time, but I'd never heard it in glorious mono. ...I don't want to come off like one of those characters in High Fidelity, but the simple truth is that most of the 60s records I love sound much, much better in mono. I don't really understand why. The word I like to use in describing the difference between mono and stereo is that mono sounds more differentiated, which is strange because the common understanding of stereo is that it separates the tracks into channels and then divides them between left and right. Every kid who grows up listening to rock can remember playing around with the balance knob on their stereo. On one side you might have rhythm guitar, backing vocals, and drums, and on the other you have lead guitar, lead vocals and bass. I can remember listening to songs like 'Day Tripper' and 'Satisfaction' when I was a kid, and loving listening to the channel with the rhythm guitar and no lead vocals. But I came of age after the mono period, so these were all stereo recordings, for the most part. Anyway, it turns out that with mono recordings, you hear all the instruments much more clearly. You even hear bits that you can't hear on the stereo versions because they get buried under something that's more prominent in the mix. ...OK, I'm sounding like a penis jouster now... Notorious Byrd Brothers sounds so goddamn good in mono. You can hear everything. You can hear the mandolin in Draft Morning. You can hear the xylophone so clearly on Goin' Back. Those great Byrds harmonies are perfectly crystalline. At one point, Gene and I were blissed out, listening to Change is Now. There's a very weird LSD guitar break in the middle. Whenever I hear it, I think of hippies getting all freaky at an Elysian Park Love-In. This time, I noticed the bass during the guitar break. It gets completely lost on the CD/stereo version of the album.
"Listen to that fucking bass!" I said to Gene. "It's so..."
"I think propulsive is the word you're looking for," he said.

Gene has this notion of every band having its Pepper. A band's Pepper is not necessarily its best album, but it's the album that's the most conceptually expansive. Notorious Byrd Brothers is definitely the Byrds' Pepper. Considerable portions even sound a lot like Sgt. Pepper. A much lesser known band from the 60s is England's Pretty Things. When we were done with Notorious Byrd Brothers, I asked Gene if he owned the Pretty Things' psychedelic classic. S.F. Sorrow on vinyl. I've been really immersed in British psychedelia over the past few weeks. Gene had it, of course, and as he located the record in his stacks he said, "SF Sorrow is definitely their Pepper." Indeed it is, and again it sounded great. About half way through Side 2, I noticed that Gene had drifted off to sleep. It was past midnight. I listened to the last few few tracks, left Gene a note thanking him for the lovely evening, and left his pad feeling a little better about my ability to relate to other people.

I had to work on Sunday. A few days earlier, I made plans to see Randy for drinks and dinner. We agreed that I'd stop by his house at 6:30, perfect timing because that's when I'd be leaving the office. At about 4pm on Sunday, Randy texted me and said that he'd rather stop by my house and eat in my neck of the woods. When you make a date with Randy, it's inevitable that the plans will change multiple times, usually after you've already structured your day around the plans as they were initially made. It annoys me, but it's one of those things that you have to accept if you're gonna be friends with Randy. He's not organized, and he doesn't seem to grasp that his inability to stick to a plan inconveniences the other person. But I'm flexible. I'm always the pliant one, always the one that puts myself out to accommodate the other. ...I also knew that the reason Randy wanted to come to my house instead is because his wife doesn't like him to partake of the Green Cross, which is pretty funny since he's an even bigger worshipper than I am. He turns me into his enabler, a position I'm not comfortable with because I like his wife. It seems disrespectful to her, and I don't want her to think that I'm a bad person who encourages Randy to do things she won't tolerate in their house. ....So things got off to a rocky start. He changed the plans on me at the last minute and did so only to evade his wife...

I grew up with Randy. I became friends with him in middle school, and then we remained in touch with each other for the first few years of college before falling off each other's radars for about 20 years. About two years ago, I ran into Randy at a grocery store in Los Feliz. It was good to see him. He had clearly changed a lot, mostly for the better, I thought, and we started hanging out again. But while he's changed, a lot of the old patterns remain in modified form. When we were growing up together, he was among the most popular kids in our school, and for good reason. He's always been very charismatic. He has a way of drawing you into his orbit and giving you just enough validation so that you think you can be part of the crowd of popular snake charmers as well. He uses his charisma to manipulate others into doing things they really don't want to do. He likes to cut corners, to outsmart the array of barriers and limitations life places in front of all of us. I have a very vivid memory of him on the day we were taking our SATs. During the break between sections of the test, he wandered over to one of the smartest kids in the school and just brazenly looked at the guy's answer sheet, and then he wandered back to his desk and changed a few of his answers. He did it so openly, right in front of the adults who were monitoring us, so confident that he wouldn't get caught, so sure that he wouldn't get in trouble even if he was caught because he was such an integral part of the social fabric of the school. And the rest of us admired him so much for doing these kinds of things. I remember thinking that it was funny but that I would never, ever have the balls to do something like that. Maybe I could have gotten away with a lot more if I had only had more chutzpa, and if I didn't live scared. Randy definitely had chutzpa. He brought it to bear on everything in his life. No boundaries. No constraints. If he wanted something he'd just go out there and fucking take it. He was also an excellent athlete, and girls adored him. He would regale us all with tales of his conquests, leaving out none of the details - the color of her panties, the sounds she would make while his finger was in her twat, and what that twat's juices smelled like on his finger afterwards. He reminds me of one of the boys in Larry Clark's creepy movie, Kids...

Randy's riverboat gambling ways eventually caught up with him. I don't want to get into all the details because they're boring and I'm not even all that clear on them anymore, but he more or less got kicked out of school. In my opinion, it was for the best. He's a much gentler person these days. I think the experience taught him some humility and made him much nicer than he otherwise would have been. Still, these things are relative. He's continues to br very self involved, and while he's nicer than he was when we were 17, he's still not an especially considerate dude...

I got home from the office on Sunday at 6:15 thinking that I wanted to have a few minutes to decompress before Randy came at 6:30. I don't know why I thought he'd be on time. He's never on time. It's my own damn fault. There are some lessons I just refuse to learn, and then I feel angry when the same thing happens as has always happened before. It's that old definition of insanity... At 7:15 I received a text message from Randy telling me he was running a little late, as if I hadn't noticed. At 8:00 the doorbell finally rang. Without my even having a chance to say hello, he pulled out his little Green Cross implement and showed it to me, his way of saying that he wanted to partake right away...

With old friends it's interesting how the same patterns that were in place when you were kids together reassert themselves years later, even though you're now both adults and have presumably lived enough life so that those old ways and assumptions would no longer hold any weight. With Randy and me, I find that there's still a part of me that wants to please him, that wants to gain his approval, and that wants for him to like me, as if we were back in 11th grade, with him as the mega-star and me as the one who's just grateful to get a little whiff of what it's like to be on the inside. I felt it very strongly on Sunday night, at least at first. I was pissed that he changed the plans. I was pissed that he was late, so late in fact that I had decided to eat on my own before he arrived. I was pissed that the only reason he seemed to want to hang out with me was so he could have some tea. But I didn't say anything about it, didn't stick up for myself. I basically fell in line with everything he wanted.

And then the strangest thing happened. People who are not true believers think that tea distorts your ability to think clearly, and maybe sometimes it does. But on this night, the tea made everything tranparently clear. I sat on my living room couch and Randy sat on a chair across the room from me. He pulled out his iPhone and began texting, emailing, playing with aps, and whatever the hell else a cell phone addict does with their drug of choice. It was as if I wasn't even in the room. He occasionally broke the silences with boring information about some business venture he is pursuing. But he never asked me any questions about me. At first I began to feel bad about myself. I'm boring. I don't have anything to say. He's not gonna wanna hang out with me anymore becuase I'm just too dull. And then I thought back to the great time I had had the night before, and I realized that Randy's the one who's boring. He has no interests outside of himself, no curiosity about music, or people, or ideas. There's no propulsive bass line in his life. He's just a narsissitic dullard with nothing to offer me. We've got nothing in common with one another, no shared syntax, nothing bonding us, except our past, and there's no way that this shared past will ever be brought into the present in a deep and meaningful way. We're acquainted with each other, and that's about it. In the midst of another long silence, I decided that I would not be the first one to speak. I wanted to see how long he could keep texting and emailing withoutany awareness that I was in the room with him. I really don't remember what happened after that, and the great thing is that I really don't care...

Friday, September 17, 2010

west LA fade away

It might be the light as much as anything else. We Angelenos are blessed with a perpetual lightshow. The curtains can be drawn anytime, anyplace. The blinding white light as you drive up Ventura Boulevard on a summer day at high noon. The eerie incandescence of a sunrise viewed from atop Mount Wilson. The spectacular November and December sunsets on the beach up in Malibu or down in San Pedro. Or just the way the sun reflects off certain buildings in Mid City. So yeah, the light is what sustains my attachment to this place. There are other things, too, but the light is very special here. And it's the kind of thing that can be easily ignored amidst all the shit one has to contend with every day. But it's important now and again to appreciate the light. It's a little thing, but it's also as big and all encompassing as it gets. Let there be light. It's good to take stock of those little big things that you tend to overlook, things that you realize make your life a little better if you just stop and notice them.

I was feeling wistful a few nights ago, more than usual anyway. For all the disappointments and feelings of betrayal I complain about, the truth is that I let people down as much as they do me. I'm aware of this. I walk around with it. It bothers me. I'm not there for the people I care about as much as I could be, and the man I've become is not the guy others want me to be. I know I can be insensitive, crude, rude, or just checked out, wrapped up in my own narrowness. I haven't always lived up to my potential. I could be so much more. I could be a gentler, nicer, more considerate person. But then again, to be all these things I'd have to be somebody different. Maybe I'd be better, maybe not, but I'd definitely be different. I may evolve or devolve in certain ways, but not much. Not anymore. I push people away - family, potential friends and romances, professional ties - because I've always had the feeling that others try to will me to be somebody else. I would like to be liked, loved, accepted, as I am, and not as I could be if only...

I had a few hours to kill in West L.A. the other night, a gap of time between an appointment with my psychopharmocologist and my regular shrink. How fitting! I suppose it was my sorrowful mood that compelled me to snap photos of dingbats. I didn't decide in advance that I wanted to take these pictures. It happened spontaneously. The light was perfect and my mood was right. It was an ideal confluence of the external and the internal. ...I'm not a photographer. This much is obvious from these pictures. But the wonder of the LA lightshow is that you don't have to be a good at it. You just have to have a camera and the light. That light. So I just went for it. It makes sense to me now because the dingbats, the ones that haven't been razed yet, are a faded architectural artifact of L.A.'s mid-century optimism, and nowadays they seem like gravestones, modest monuments to something that keeps slipping further and further away. They speak to me.

It's funny how cultural revisionism asserts itself like an iron law of history. It was not that long ago that dingbats were still viewed as the perfect expression of everything wrong with Los Angeles: The absolute primacy of the automobile. The surface with no depth. The cheapness and ephemerality. The dominance of mass production. The acceptance of mechanized alienation as a way of life... And then at some point, as the dingbates have gone more deeply into decay, with many of them disappearing altogether, a nostalgia for them has begun to set in. There's now a lot of great material on the internet dedicated to the appreciation and even preservation of the dingbat as an important civic and historical relic. This is just one example. And you just know there must be at least a dozen dissertations that have been written on digbats in the last few years at UCLA's School of Urban Planning, where pomo perversity is a religion. So the dingbat is finally having its time in the sun. It's about time, I say.

I dug dingbats from the first time I saw them. But I'm certainly no trailblazer in this respect. In the early 70s, Reyner Banham published his classic, Los Angeles: The Ecology of Four Architectures, and he may have been the first to go against the prevailing taste in his favorable assessment of dingbats. But I didn't know anything about urban theory when I moved to LA in the spring of 1992 - three days before Florence and Normandie, btw. The first building I lived in was a dingbat on Barry Avenue in West LA. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to drive to it the other night to snap a photo, but it was a great first apartment. It really was. I loved it. It was what I would consider to be a late-period incarnation of the form, built in 1967, so just outside the Golden Age of the dingbat, approximately 1957 to 1966. The one-story walk-up studio apartment I lived in was nothing more than a purely functional box with a kitchen and crapper. The walls were paper thin. I could hear conversations, farts, stereos, sex, televisions... from apartments on either side of me, as well as from the apartment underneath me. It was like the people were in the same room with me. The carport was in the back and you had to enter into it via an alley. West LA is replete with these kinds of alleys. If you ever watch shows like Adam-12, or Dragnet, or Emergency, or Chips, there's usually some action taking place in one of these alleys. They're trashy and ratty and dirty and gross, but there's something about them that I find mesmerizing. They're intestinal pathways, ugly mechanisms that keep things moving and make it all work.

Dingbats are so emblematic of Los Angeles. I know they exist in other cities as well like San Fraccisco, San Diego, Miami, Pheonix... Someone I work with even told me he's seen dingbats in Sao Paulo. But, let's face it, the dingbat is an LA thing. I was initially drawn to them by virtue of their sheer wackiness. They imbued me with a sense of LA as a place where anything is possible and where weird shit happens. I also appreciate the way they're so resolutely tasteless. It's deep emotional response. I grew up in a household which at times could be quite snooty.
My parents are both from lower middle-class families, but they're strivers, not just in terms of the making of more and more money, but also when it comes to refinement, culture and, yes, taste. They're a text book example of Bourdieu's theory of distinction. I think I've already written about this bit, so it obviously weighs on me quite a bit. It's good to get it all out... My parents go to the opera, to the theater, to chamber music. They really only associate with other middle-class cum upper-middle-class strivers. It all had a lot of advantages for me in the way I was raised. I grew up in comfort, with lots of domestic help floating around the house all the time. College was all paid for, and my parents gave me a lot of help going through graduate school. There are much, much worse circumstances I could have been thrown into. But the cultural part, the distinction thing, I found all that pretty oppressive. It made me wanna...

That's it. Get it all out. It feels good. Where the hell was I anyway? ...I think the point I was trying to make is that there are deep emotional and psychological reasons for me to be drawn to bad taste, hence the ongoing magnetism of dingbats for me... West LA is one of several hotspots in the city for dingbats. I think the best dingbats are in Palms, right around Motor Ave, just north of Venice Blvd. But you also see some doozies in Culver City, West Hollywood and Mid City. You don't really see nearly as many dingbats on the east side of town, probably because it was developed earlier and a lot of the residential buildings that were built from the turn of the century through the 1940s are still standing.

The dingbats that remain are very much in decline. The paint's pealing, the structural beams are cracked and starting to give, the real estate developers are licking their chops. I want to cherish them while I still can. They mean a lot to me, as corny as that sounds. They remind me that I managed to escape. I'm proud of myself for having done that. But what did I escape to? I don't know anymore. I've lost my sense of purpose. I think this is the real reason I love the dingbats. They're from another time, one that gets smaller in the rear-view mirror every day. But the strongest ones survive. They may be old and tasteless, but they have a dignity about them. I like that. It's something to strive for. We'll survive together, me and those old dingbats. We'll have each other. We'll have the city. We'll have the light...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

talking baseball with the prince of new york

There are many mornings when the only incentive I have to get out of bed is the knowledge that the bank will foreclose on my house if I don't show up for work. Over the past few months, though, Paul Lebowitz, aka the Prince of New York, has made my morning grind much more pleasant. Paul writes what is by far the best baseball blog I've come across on the internet. Along with his blog, Paul prepares an excellent annual baseball guide and is a frequent guest on Sal Cardiselo's Sports Fan Buzz, where his no-nonsense New York accent adds force and conviction to his ruthless baseball expertise. But don't mistake Paul for a one dimensional man. In addition to his comprehensive baseball analysis, he's a novelist, a poet, and a commentator on culture at large. If you're as big a baseball junkie as I am, or even if you just enjoy great writing and thoughtful people, the Prince of New York is a guy to keep on your radar. He was nice enough to answer some of my questions about the Mets and Angels...

There's a common perception in the media that the Mets have become an organization prone to disaster. I know you don't buy this. What did you see from the Mets in 2010 that would give you hope for the future? What do you think they have to do to be a legitimate playoff contender in 2011?

The Mets mishaps have been more pronounced, so the perception of them bing a disaster stems from the back-to-back “collapses”. In 2007, they did collapse. In 2008, they were functioning without a closer and got beat because of it. The Mets were said to have no farm system to speak of, but look at them now----they’re loaded with prospects.

I’m a believer in the sum of the parts being greater than the individual. Look at the downfall of the Yankees from the championship years through 2009; they never had any player who led the league in homers or RBI; they were a team; then Steinbrenner started collecting as many glossy names as he could, they weren’t a unit and they played like it at crunch time. For the Mets to be a contender in 2011, they have to bolster the pitching staff from top to bottom; not necessarily with a Cliff Lee, but with a Bronson Arroyo-type. And they need some reliable bullpen arms. The offense should be there if Bay and Beltran are anywhere close to what they need and they get a second baseman who’s not an automatic out.

What is your assessment of the job Omar Minaya has done as the GM? How much of the blame for the failures of the last four seasons can reasonably be placed on his shoulders? Do you think he will he survive as GM for the remaining year on his contract?

Omar Minaya had a philosophy of building a team that was based on the bullpen being very deep and a high-powered offense. The one thing that cost the Mets in 2006 and 2007 was losing Duaner Sanchez. Aaron Heilman was fine as the seventh ining guy; but as the eighth inning guy, he was a nightmare. They’re also top-heavy with veteran stars and when a team is built that way, they don’t have the reinforcements if the stars get hurt. Naturally what happened in 2009 was absurd, but the Red Sox and Phillies have experienced similar injuries in 2010 and continued winning in spite of them. Omar’s strengths are in scouting; he has trouble with the English language and when he has to do damage control or fire someone, he can’t do it and sounds foolish. He’ll be better off as an advisor than the main man.

Who would you like to see replace Jerry Manuel as manager? What do you think the odds are that Joe Torre will make a triumphant return to the Mets?

I’m starting to like the idea of Wally Backman as manager. He’s a Met; he’d get into people’s faces; and the team would be aggressive and forced to adhere to fundamentals.

Torre’s not coming back to the Mets----he doesn’t need the aggravation and they won’t want to pay him.

How much will the remaining money left on the contracts for Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, and Oliver Perez limit the moves the Mets can make in the offseason? Do you think the club will finally cut ties with Ollie, even if it means eating the $12 million he's still owed?

They’ll be able to get rid of Castillo for a similar contract or attached to another player they want to trade who’s more in demand. Perez is going nowhere in a trade; they're going to have to eat the money to get him out of here. Presumably, they could find a taker for Beltran, but they might want to keep him and hope he stay healthy and hits in his walk year.

I hear grumbling from a small but growing contingent of Met fans that the organization needs to trade either David Wright or Jose Reyes. Do you think a case can be made for breaking up the core? If so, who would you be more inclined to trade of the two players? For me, it would have to be Reyes. I look at his seven or so years with the Mets and I see a periodically explosive and game changing player, but also a guy who's never been able to stay healthy. Is it me or is he pretty brittle for a player who's not even 30 yet?

Reyes will also be looking to cash in either with the Mets or another club. I’d gauge the market for Wright and Reyes, but would have to be bowled over to trade one or both.

I know it's impossible to foresee how a player will come back from a serious head injury, but assuming Jason Bay makes a full recovery, do you think he will be able to produce in a way comparable to what he did in Boston and Pittsburgh? How much of his struggles during the first year of his contract can be explained by the added pressures and difficulties involved in playing in New York?

I think Bay will come back and be a 20-25 homer man; it was a similar transition to NY for Beltran and he was fine after that first rough year. Bay’s performed everywhere he’s been and his poor year wasn’t due to a lack of hustle. New York takes some getting used to. He’ll be fine.

Through all their listless play during the second half of the season, the one bright spot for the Mets seems to have been the starting pitching. If Henry Mejia turns out to be as good as advertised, the starting rotation for 2011 - Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Niese, RA Dickey and Henry Mejia - could be very good. I don't think the Mets need to go out and spend a lot of money on another starter during this off season, do you?

The Mets do need to get at least one and possibly two starters. Even if Santana is back by say May, they need to go into the season with an established arm from whom they’re going to get a predictable performance.

What is your assessment of how the Mets bullpen performed in 2010? Do you think Francciso Rodriguez will be closing games for the Mets in 2011?

The bullpen has been mostly down this season. Hisanori Takahashi has been a revelation. Much of the struggles could be due to the haphazard use by manager Manuel; they need more organization out there and a couple of reliable arms who can get strikeouts. Grant Balfour is a free agent; Scot Shields will be available and there are always valuable finds in the bargain bin.

I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with K-Rod; they’re trying to un-guarantee the contract and it’s unheard of, but given the latest transgression of contacting his girlfriend, the Mets have a case. I’m iffy on whether K-Rod will be closing for them.

With Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Joel Pinero, the Angels will have four very solid starters in 2011. But then there's Scott Kazmir in the number five spot. He has been ineffective and looks lost out on the mound. What do you think the problem is for him? Is he 'done' at age 26, and would it be possible for the Angels to move him given his bad contract?

Scott Kazmir needs to be a reliever. He has neither the stamina nor the size to be a starter long-term. For all the work they get from him, he’s little more than a 4th starter. When his stuff is working, he gets hurt; and when his stuff isn’t working, he gets shelled; as much ridicule as the Mets and Rick Peterson took for their assessment of him taking a long time to make it to the big leagues; having a bit of an attitude problem; and that he was unlikely to have the stamina to make it as a starter, he was right. The trade for Victor Zambrano was atrocious, but that doesn’t mean it was a mistake to trade Kazmir because the return wasn't any good. He needs to be a closer. They can trade him if they want to; someone would take him in exchange for a similar contract; I always joke that the Mets should try to get him back, but if you look at it and some of their contracts they’d like to get rid of, it’s not that bad an idea.

Beyond the starting pitching, I see some problems for the Angels going forward. I think the team may be in for a prolonged rebuilding period. Let's look at the infield for starters. Assuming Kendry Morales is the same player after he's recovered from his leg fracture, he will provide a much needed boost both offensively and defensively at first base. But Howie Kendrick at second, Alberto Callaspo at third, Erick Aybar at short, and Ceasar Itzturus as a utility's tough for me as an Angels fan to get too excited about these guys. Aybar and Kendrick have both been touted as players with great potential, but so far they've not really lived up to the billing. Do you agree? What is your impression of the presumed starting infield for the Halos in 2011? It seems like the team would have to make a trade if they wanted to significantly improve their infield.

The Angels are going to get a bat and they’ve long been enamored of Paul Konerko. They’re also said to be the frontrunners for Carl Crawford. I dunno about “frontrunner”, but he’s their type of player and they’ll be in there trying to get him. I don’t put much stock in the idea that a team has to have a power bat at the corner positions based on little more than history. A team is the sum of its parts. If the Angels improve with a Konerko and Crawford, they can carry the infield you listed.

What do you think the Angels can or should do to upgrade their outfield for the 2011 season and beyond? The club did the right thing, in my opinion, in moving Torii Hunter to right field in order to at least see what they have in the lightning-fast Peter Bourjos in center field. But Bourjos has not shown that he can hit major league pitching yet, and Bobby Abreu is starting to decline. There's been a lot of talk among Angels fans about signing Carl Crawford. Do you think this would make sense? Personally, I'd rather see the organization go with a youth movement and give guys like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo chances to win spots with the big boys, even if it means a few sub-par seasons while they gain experience.

A team like the Angels is willing to give their young players a chance to play, but they’re going to go all out to try and win next year after the way this season came undone. The look like they believe in Bourjos and will give him every opportunity to play his way into hitting. Look at Brandon Wood---they’re only just now about ready to give up on him after all those years of failure.Abreu’s signed to a reasonable deal, but they’ll probably keep him around. The one guy who’s going to be gone is Juan Rivera. And Matsui won’t be back.

The Angels bullpen was inconsistent in 2010. How confident can Angels fans be that Fernando Rodney can be an effective closer in 2011. I do not feel good when he comes into a game. He seems to have difficulty with his command with runners on base, and he gets easily rattled. If he continues to struggle, do you think Mike Scioscia would give hard throwing youngsters like Kevin Jepsen or Jordan Walden a chance to close games?

Rodney’s a gutty closer; he can get wild and give up a homer here and there, but the Angels shield their closer very well with a deep set-up corps. All those years that K-Rod was accumulating saves, it was Scot Shields doing the heavy lifting for K-Rod to get the glory. We saw what happened when it was crunch time in the playoffs and K-Rod blew all those games. Shields was far more valuable than K-Rod. The Angels always build a good bullpen

I look at the Texas Rangers right now and I see a team that just flat out has more talent than the Angels. What's worse for Angels fans is that so much of the Rangers' talent is young. Do you think they are likely to dominate the American League West for the next few years?

The Rangers are loaded with talent thanks to that trade they made with the Braves sending them Mark Teixeira. That was a masterpiece. Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison , Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a steal. They’ve also drafted well. With the stabilization of ownership, the Rangers and Angels should be fighting it out for the division and both will be in Wild Card play as the Yankees/Red Sox/Rays transition.

If you were the Angels' GM, what would be your biggest priority in the offseason in terms of improving the club for the 2011 season and beyond?

The Angels need a bat and they always address their needs. Crawford and Konerko are the players I think they’ll add.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

come hither

I have a crush on a gal at the gym. Do I know her name? No. Have I ever even spoken one word to her? No. Do I know anything about her other than her workout regimen? No. Do I ever let her see me leering at her? No. Is there anything more than pure projection involved in this fixation of mine? No. Do I think she knows that I have a crush on her? Yes. Why do I think this if I haven't ever spoken to her and pretend to ignore her? Because when this kind of thing happens to me - and it happens to me all the time - my face tends to turn beet red when I'm in the presence of the object of my obsession. How could a woman not notice that, and how could it not turn her off, knowing that some silent weirdo is sweet on her? But if I don't know anything about her, how could I be fixated to such a degree? I'm not all that clear on this one. There's something about her that trips a live wire in the sector of my brain where intense emotions are stored. It's kind of like when I hear The Night Was So Young. The impact on me is not rational. It's light and airy and crackling with potential, but it's somehow also tinged with melancholy, an expectation that in the end I won't get what I want. When it comes to romance I never get what I want, quite possibly because I engage in such baseless projection, which forces me to do everything I can to make reality conform to the ideal I've created.

For all I know, this gal is a mean and cruel bitch. There's at least as much likelihood of her being a mean and cruel bitch as there is of her being the wonderful, smart, witty, kind lady I want her to be. (Are you digging my usage of gal and lady as much as I am?) Would it destroy my fixation if I knew for a fact that she is a mean and cruel bitch? No. I would rationalize it away. I would make excuses for her. She's a mean and cruel bitch to everyone else, but everyone else misunderstands her. She's misunderstood, and so am I. I like to think of myself as being misunderstood. It eases the pain... So we're perfect for each other. The two of us could be so happy together, understanding one another, understanding that we're each misunderstood, feeling superior to everybody else because they fail to understand us. We would love one another in our mutual feelings of superiority.

There's something about the way she looks and the way she carries herself, this gal at the gym. She's not hot. Not at all. She's very plain looking. I'm attracted to unadorned women. I've often pointed out gals on the street to my male friends and said something like, 'look how pretty she is,' only to have them tell me that they would never have looked twice at someone so ordinary looking. A guy I know recently said to me, 'It must be great being you. You think every girl is hot.' Actually, dude, it's not so great being me, and your tiny little peanut of a brain is missing the point. Hot doesn't do it for me. Young doesn't do it for me. I have nothing in common with young, hot people. They don't think the way I do. They don't want the same things I want. They don't like the things I like. They don't speak the way I speak... Am I generalizing? Yes. Does the fact that it's a geralization make it any less true? No. I hold the hot youth of today in contempt. I dated a younger woman for a few months earlier this year. She made me miserable. Our world views were completely different in a way that had everything to do with age. She had a great body...and I couldn't even get it up for her because there was no mutual understanding between us. I tried Viagra. I tried 36-hour Cialis. Nothing. My dick receded into my balls, like a turtle taking cover. I was so very happy and relieved when she broke off communication with me without warning. I felt as free as a bird... I like a woman with a little bit of age on her. I'm not interested in dating women under 40. Most of the time I'm not interested in dating women at all, but when the urge flares up, or when I feel like I should be doing it in order to conform to some received conception of normality, I like my ladies to be at least 40. When I look at porn, my favorite niches are 'mature' and 'MILF.' Porn search engines these days allow guys like me to be very precise in our choices of what to look at. Just type in the keywords: 'mature, glasses, redhead, thick, pretty, natural, POV, handjob, tease, no ink, on top... and presto, there she is, the ideal woman, without me ever having to leave the bedroom, without me ever having to deal with the humiliation of dating and making conversation with someone who will never understand where I've been, where I am, where I'm going, who I am, what I like, what I don't like. And then when I've beat off to the streaming video a few times, I can just re-type the same keywords again and there'll be millions of other streams for me to watch. So why bother putting myself out there? I get all the love I need from my two beautiful cats, and they don't need anything from me except affection, a clean shit box, and food. But I'm thinking that this girl at the gym doesn't require much more than this either. She seems very self-sufficient when she's on the Stairmaster. She seems like she doesn't need anybody. She's got no rock on her finger. She doesn't wear gym hottie clothing, just a pair of beat up sweats and a ragged t-shirt. She looks fantastic in that get up, but it's obvious that she doesn't need men to stare at her. I like that. I dig her short hair, too. It's dirty blonde. I've always liked short hair on women. I bet she lives in some cool downtown loft. She's probably an artist. Or she works at a museum, or a library. She doesn't make a lot of money, but that's because she doesn't need a lot of things. She doesn't need people, and she doesn't need things. Just enough to survive in relative comfort. That's about the best we can hope for in this world these days. If you're surviving in relative comfort, and you're reasonably self-sufficient, then you're doing ok. ...She doesn't work out with an iPod. Does this mean she doesn't like music? No. I refuse to believe she doesn't like music. I refuse to believe that someone who looks and acts the way she does has no room for music in her life.
The reason she doesn't work out with an iPod is because she hasn't transitioned yet from LPs. She probably has a great collection of LPs, all the things you'd expect a girl to have in her record collection. Joni Mitchell. X. Bowie. Roxy Music. Neil Young. Nick Drake... And I just know she's open to hearing stuff she hasn't heard before, and that she likes to make love with the stereo on. I'd be able to keep my cock hard if I was making love to her with Bryter Layter wafting out of the speakers, the words sung in a near-whisper, as if the guy is doing an intimate performance for just this occasion. I would worship her naked, overripe body. She wouldn't be selfish. She'd do the things I like having done to me, even if I'm not all that clear on what those things are. She'd explore that question with me, and she'd show me what I need to do to please her. She'd teach me. I need a teacher in the bedroom. I need patience. I don't have a lot of good experiences to draw from. She'd find my sexual ineptitude attractive. I'm not like all those other guys she's been with who are so cocky because they know exactly what to do. She'd sing while I was inside her, and squeal, and moan, and scream. And she'd announce it to the world when she was about to come. The neighbors would know that she was about to come. And I'd love that the neighbors know that I'm schtuping a 40-something woman in my bedroom, and that I have the chops to make her come. I'd act all cool about it when I saw them in the next morning as I made my way to my car, parked in front of the house. They'd look at me admiringly, those fucking neighbors with their sprinklers that leave permanent hard water spots on my Mustang. You made that gal come last night, they'd think to themselves. You made her scream and squeal and moan. And then she came! We heard it! You must be quite the stallion 'cause the noise she made shattered our fine china. Who the hell does she think she is, Ella fucking Fitzgerald?

I don't let this gal see me looking at her at the gym. I think I mentioned that already. I act indifferent. Yet I know she knows that I'm thinking about screwing her with the stereo on. You might be wondering why I don't approach her and strike up a conversation, you know, like a normal guy might do. After you've thought about eating a gal's pussy and making her come, it's kind of hard to avoid stumbling over your words. Some guys can do it. Some guys can't. I'm one of those guys who can't. There's also a fear of getting shot down. I'll do anything to avoid getting shot down. Again, some guys get shot down and then they just dust themselves off, strap on their helmets a little tighter, and try to find someone else who'll be more receptive to their advances. When I get shot down, it takes me about two years to recover whatever thimble full of confidence I had. Rejection, and especially rejection from women, confirms every feeling I have about myself. It underscores for me that the only thing more powerful than my seething misanthropy is my seething self loathing. It confirms for me that I'm better off typing the keywords into the porn search engine. Nothing cures romantic longing better than masturbation. When I clean out my balls, I clean out my head as well and see the world as it really is, not as it appears to be when I'm longing for someone or something I can't have.

This has turned into quite a rant, eh? I'm thinking that maybe I should try a breaching experiment. I studied a sociologist named Harold Garfinkel when I was in graduate school. He invented these types of experiments where an ethnographer will purposely breach the norms of a given everyday circumstance in order to observe how people deal with and reconstitute those norms on the fly. The idea is to see how the normative status quo is restored and perpetuated in the course of everyday interactions. So maybe I should try a breaching experiment at the gym, with this gal. I could approach her and tell her that I would really like for her to sit on my face so I can make her come... OK, so that might not be such a great idea. I might get kicked out of the gym if I did that, and then I'd have no place to
work out, no place to keep myself lean and chiseled in the event that I'm ever in a position again to have a woman sit on my face. Maybe a less severe breaching experiment would be a better idea... I really like the way you work out on that there stair master. No wonder you look so fit... Maybe I should keep the part about being fit out of it, because any intelligent lady will be able to translate that into what it really means: I would really like to eat your pussy and make you come. ...I need to think more about this breaching experiment. I've got nothing to lose. I'm like a ball club that's 10 games out of first place with five games left to play.