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Author Archives: kblumenau

Livin’ for givin’ the devil his due.

Let’s throw some words in this direction, just for fun.

An old college acquaintance I follow on Twitter posted about the existence of an online archive of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, dating back to 1975. I spent some time enjoying that earlier today.

The magazine is a curious mix of the heights of New York fashion and the depths of banality, and in that, it is fascinating.

A sample highlight: The August 1981 issue includes an interview with Mick Jagger conducted on June 2, 1981, the 40th birthday of Stones drummer Charlie Watts. Chawlie shows up to answer a question or two and receive a cake. Mick shows off photos of his recently acquired home in France and kvetches about paying taxes in New York State, while briefly mentioning the upcoming Stones album, possibly to be called Tattoo. As mentioned, it combines the height of fashion and the depths of banality.

There was another article around the time of Some Girls that suggested that Jagger and Keith Richards might still be performing at age 50, under the names “Mississippi Mick Jagger and Blind Lime Richards.” The media’s total inability to perceive that the Stones might still be rolling at age 70 and beyond is always entertaining.

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A random Twitter interaction earlier today also led me to a historic coincidence: 40 years ago today, Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You” placed at No. 40 in its last of three weeks on the American Top 40, thus relieving the Cult of the ominous weight of being one-hit wonders. (You know what their first hit was.)

I wrote a Five For The Record about “Burnin’ For You” some years ago. The local classic-rock/album-rock station used to play it frequently when I was a kid. I taped it off the radio, back when that was what one did for songs one liked, and it’s always seemed to straddle the worlds of Top 40 pop and hard-rock with great aplomb.

There should probably be more Blue Oyster Cult in my consciousness:

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Yesterday I went running. It was October 16 and the temperature was probably 70 to 75 degrees and I was quite comfy in a t-shirt and shorts in my little pocket of New England.

I think we all have our own signifiers of climate change, and I’ve decided that this is mine:

The weather I thought of in high school and long afterward as “cross-country weather” (cool, crisp, breezy, well-suited to long-sleeve T-shirts, cozy and dark and hygge once you’re done running) now doesn’t arrive until the last week or two of cross-country season.

Burn out the day, burn out the night.

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No prizes for spotting me in this partial team picture. Senior year, fall 1990.

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This weekend I gave blood, raked leaves, made probably two years’ worth of spicy vinegar-based hot sauce out of the year’s crop of hot peppers, and baked some crusty French-style bread just ’cause I could.

I love growing hot peppers but I really don’t have a good end use for them. Every year I pick them and go, “hmmmmm.” And I end up boiling them with vinegar and salt, pureeing the cooled mixture, and putting it into the fridge to put on … stuff. (Usually stray batches of rice.)

I should make it a point for next year to come up with a better game plan, if I haven’t singed my tongue to hell and gone by then.

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In less than 12 hours I go back to work for another week. Couldn’t care less about it at this point, thanks to the last remaining lashings of bourbon in my cabinet … but sometime overnight the switch will flip, and I will put on my salaryman’s cloak again in the morning and go forth and be dutiful.

If not, I could always make a career of evil. I will not apologize:

 

I’m bad, I’m nationwide.

Seattle! Just back from my first visit to a very nice city. I remain uninterested in analyzing popular music in the style to which I was once accustomed, but will gladly dash off a travelogue.

Riding into the city from the airport I passed the old Rainier Brewery, which reminded me of a potentially apocryphal but very believable story about former big-league pitcher Sig Jakucki.

Jakucki was the third starting pitcher on the 1944 St. Louis Browns team that surprisingly won the American League championship. By all accounts, he was also a belligerent drunk whose truculence helped lose him the sole regular big-league employment he ever managed to secure.

Jakucki pitched in Seattle when it was still a minor-league town, and reportedly, his team’s general manager would drive him home after games in an attempt to keep him from wandering into bars. One night they drove past the Rainier Brewery, in full-swing production on the second shift, with trucks rolling and bottles clanking.

“You see, Sig?” the general manager said. “You can’t drink it as fast as they can make it.”

“Maybe not,” Jakucki is said to have replied. “But I’ve got ’em working nights.”

I have no particular art to illustrate this story, so will post a pint of pilsner I drank at a perfectly copasetic microbrewery near the Pike Place public market. They had a video screen above the bar showing old TV ads for beer from the 1960s through 1980s, which was simultaneously entertaining and thirst-inducing. The beer? Very good.

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What else happened in Seattle? Well, I rode the light rail system, starting at a station that literally only opened about a week before I hit town. It was so absurdly clean that it made the Toronto subway look like the night train through the Bowery. There was an art installation there that still worked and hadn’t been defaced, even! Mark me down for more rides.

There was some touristy stuff — Pike Place, the Aquarium, the Chihuly glass exhibit — all of it worth seeing at least once.

There was a college visit, with the younger son, to the University of Washington. Seemed nice enough, but of course, the ultimate verdict is not mine.

The most memorable building was one my son will never enter if he goes to UW. Sieg Hall, the electrical engineering building, combines a distinctly ’60s exterior architectural style with an overgrown complement of ivy and bushes.

The entrance we chose — and it was a front entrance — was completely without foot traffic. There were a few lights on in the building, and there must have been students there on a Friday, but we could have set up a picnic on the front landing and gotten all the way to the watermelon before anyone else showed up.

Walking into the place feels like doing urban exploration at an abandoned hotel in the Catskills. Swear to God.

The stairs where we entered Sieg Hall. 1977 wants its lobby back. This place is probably costing UDub some electrical engineering majors … but that is not a problem I need concern myself with. (Edit since initial post: UW’s own engineering website suggests that the university community doesn’t care much for the place either.)

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There were very pleasant visits with family members who live there. They are just about as far from me as you can possibly be and still be in the U.S., and the American commercial air-flight system seems to be developing deep cracks, but I look forward to getting back to the PNW for further visitation and exploration.

There was plenty of coffee, plus a really good maple bar at a local donut-and-coffee shop … though it pains me to report that my brother’s apple fritter was not as moist and fresh as it should have been. (Apple fritters are a link to my boyhood I’ve not explored in this space. Maybe someday. Are you riveted?)

Chuck Berry even showed up, in the garden of what appeared to be an apartment house in the city’s Capitol Hill district.

There’s a statue of Jimi Hendrix — a Seattle native — on the sidewalk on Capitol Hill, which makes sense. But I have no idea how Chuck Berry, a St. Louisan, enters the conversation.

Who knows.

Pretty sure this is Chuck Berry, anyway. He’s duck-walking. Anyone else got any other guesses?

At least three people, including a neighboring traveler, were watching “Titanic” on the flight out … and so I (in silence) saw great chunks of this movie I managed to avoid when it first came out in 1997-1998. It was abysmal, a dumpster fire of glurge and implausibility. Bleah.

There was more, and quite likely you’ll hear about it as time goes by, but for now it’s time to wrap up and go convince my inner operating systems that it’s no longer a decent hour to be awake.

Your favorite foreign movie.

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Been meaning to write for a while now.

I ran my first 5K since Thanksgiving 2019 last weekend. It supported the local high school’s Boosters Club, which meant there were lots of fit teenage athletes on hand to fry my middle-aged ass. I beat a couple of ’em, though.

The pandemic and associated weight gain have added (ulp!) two minutes to my 5K time. On the bright side, I am still able to finish a 5K in half my age; it’s just a much nearer thing than it was the last time I did it.

Later that same day I went apple picking and nature-walking in the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts. It was nine different kinds of awesome.

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Spent much of the past 36 hours in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s kinda sad how slow and closed-up the downtown gets after about 6:30 p.m. (If you go overnight? Bring your own food. Not really joking on that.) I’m led to believe that’s not just a pandemic thing; they’ve always rolled up the carpets early there.

The musical highlight of the trip was rediscovering my copy of The Darcys’ AJA.

The Darcys are a Toronto art-rock band who, nine years ago (!), released a heavily rearranged track-by-track cover of Steely Dan’s Aja. I believe it was a free download back in the day, so of course I grabbed it, but hadn’t taken it out in a while.

If you can stand the notion of the almighty Dan being irreverently tampered with, AJA has quite a bit to recommend it.

The cover of “Peg,” in particular, carried me almost all the way back home from Connecticut on repeat. A totally different vibe but it grabs in its own way. Check out the harmonized voices that supply the familiar bridge after the first verse (it was instrumental the last time you heard it), and the dissonant chiming electric piano and guitar behind the verses, and the drums that remind you that a properly used hi-hat is one of the great weapons of rock n’ roll.

(If any Dan scholars in the audience want to explain to me what “Peg” is “about,” that would be welcomed, as I am not much closer to knowing. I believe Becker and Fagen’s liner notes describe it as a man “admonishing a lost love,” but Seventies B&F were never reliable narrators. It sounds to me like a guy talking in his head to a movie actress he’s never met and probably never will … and what he’s saying isn’t especially coherent either.)

My second favorite thing on the album is probably the title track — a lush jazz mini-symphony in its original form, a feverish slow-motion stroll across barbed wire in this one:

I suppose I should really check out their original material sometime. No hurry — it’s only been nine years. Maybe the next time I find myself in Hartford with time on my hands…

 

 

Second-hand news.

The Internet does not love me and does not want me to function like a regular human being.

In addition to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (discussed at more length in my previous post), I have discovered that there’s a Boston TV News Digital Library. Loads and loads of archival news footage from my city of choice, spanning decades.

I could spend a day watching nothing but clips about the 1974 busing crisis. That would be an interesting deep dive into a complex historical moment, and an education besides.

But there’s other stuff too. Such as:

Duke Ellington and his orchestra playing a festival in August 1970. This is not the finest extant film of Duke, and it runs less than a minute-and-a-half. But it puts you in the front row to watch Duke Ellington and his orchestra play “Take The A Train” — and they ain’t makin’ any more footage of that.

(While we’re on the jazz-royalty beat, you might also enjoy this 1982 interview with Count Basie.)

A few months after Duke’s gig, there’s footage of the October 1970 announcement of Humberto Cardinal Medeiros as the new Archbishop of Boston. Medeiros leads his legendary predecessor, Richard Cardinal Cushing, out by the arm. Cushing, who would be dead of cancer less than a month later, spends the entire media availability chewing on invisible pain.

On a lighter note, we have some April 1976 footage of Commonwealth Avenue, intended to accompany a story about trolleys and buses.

This aligns with my interests because it shows the stretch of Comm. Ave. so familiar from my BU days. (The specific hi-fi shops and pizza shops had turned over by the 1990s, but the buildings are recognizable.) It’s also droll because you get to hear the interactions of the news crew while they’re filming the B-roll — and in particular, a timeless blast of frustration on the driver’s part. (“Aw, c’mon, ya dumb fuck, you’ve got a green light!”)

It’s enough to make you wonder what’s really on the soundtrack when you see those background shots on the 6 o’ clock news … well, for those who still watch the 6 o’clock news, anyway.

Diana Ross rehearses at the old Boston Music Hall, early 1977, wearing one of those sorta-homemade T-shirts that says “Boston Loves Diana Ross.” I know damn little in actual truth about Diana Ross — it’s all surface image, like the Supremes in the floor-length gowns doing the stylized hand gestures — so any one-on-one exposure of Miss Ross to a camera is an education.

From the same period — early 1977 — some Registry of Motor Vehicles film of Massachusetts drivers being issued the new green-on-white license plates.

Circa 2000, I did a story for my suburban daily newspaper about the fact that Mass. had moved on to a new plate design but had never quite gotten around to phasing these out completely. The story included an interview with Michael Dukakis, who was enjoyably piss-and-vinegar about his successors’ failure to clamp down. (Yes, I called Michael Dukakis to talk about green-and-white license plates. Those were different times.)

Fast-forward to 2021 … and those drivers who still have legible green-on-whites are still allowed to use them.

From March 1978, we have brief B-roll related to a “disco fight“! Apparently some sailors on shore leave went to a disco on Lansdowne Street — near Fenway Park — and got into a brawl with non-military booty-shakers. I was on Lansdowne Street earlier this summer and that building looks familiar, though it’s not green any more, and I couldn’t tell you what’s there now. Now, if they hadn’t insisted on tearing down Scollay Square, they wouldn’t have had this problem…

Speaking of Fenway Park, there are a couple of blasts of sports footage, including silent film of an April 1972 game between the Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians.

The Red Sox pitcher’s corkscrew windup marks him as the beloved Luis Tiant, just beginning his big comeback season. El Tiante, close to washing out of the big leagues, went 15-6 with a league-best 1.91 ERA in 1972 and would pitch in Boston through the end of the 1978 season. Apparently he lost this game, though.

“Bomb at the John Hancock Building,” December 1973, offers its own slice of the past: I find it works well if you mentally overdub Kojak-style tense instrumental music over the footage. The mystery package, thankfully, is not explosive in nature. (I think this is the Old John Hancock Building — steady blue, clear view — not the Hancock Tower, which was still in construction in 1973 and having well-publicized problems with its windowpanes.)

Fritz Mondale at Boston College commencement, 1979.I’m delighted to be in Boston again … *tap tap tap* … is this thing working?” Ah, Fritz, inspirational as always.

(Hey, I’m gonna have to see if this archive has any John Anderson in it. Aw, hells yes, it does.)

An obituary for Arthur Fiedler, also 1979. Like Duke Ellington, they aren’t making any more footage of Arthur Fiedler wandering around the Hatch Shell. He seems like the sort of civic institution whose memory is worth preserving, and it’s nice to know there’s film of him circulating online, talking firsthand about what he did and why he did it. (“You do the best you can, always. I’ll do the best I can.”)

“Silent footage of a junkyard in the rain,” July 1976. It is as advertised. Need it be anything else?

Grand Bostonians 1977: Mayor Kevin White, most noted in pop culture for enabling James Brown and the Rolling Stones to play the Gahden, honors seven venerable Bostonians for their social contributions. Leverett Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge are included. To White’s credit, so too is African-American community leader Melnea Cass.

This clip begins with the words, “Emerson once said that ‘the measure or test of a civilization…” and you can just inject that city-on-a-hill transcendentalist big-idea stuff directly into my veins.

November 1980: A computer show invades Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. Pretty sure I’ve seen this film before. But sharing anyway because nostalgia for the early days of computing is also core to my experience.

The Boston Astros: Apparently in 1974 there was a pro soccer team called the Boston Astros that played games on Boston University’s field. I can’t get this footage to play, so it’s quite possible that they never existed and the whole thing is one big shuck. Posting it anyway, just in case it works tomorrow.

There’s more. Much more. I’ll stop there. It’s Sunday night and a workin’ man needs to wind down at some point. I’ll just have to come back…

“We will continue programming from our studio in Corvallis.”

A quick dispatch from a rabbit hole I would gladly spend my entire day down — the American Archive of Public Broadcasting website.

It appears, from my token exploration, to be a massive cache of public TV and radio programs going back to the 1950s. It’s a giant, giant pile of sobersided, thought-provoking, low-budget, often horribly dated content. Which is to say, it presses all kinds of great buttons for me.

The delights include, but are by no means limited to:

A 1977 episode of The McNeil/Lehrer Report devoted to the increasing popularity of soccer in America, including berserk claymation; great faded footage of both NASL games and youth soccer; and Shep Messing, because he was the closest thing to a handsome American-bred, American-known soccer star, so of course Shep Messing.

A 1972 debate over whether professional athletes should be allowed at the Olympics, hosted by (of all people) a remarkably young Michael Dukakis. (The Duke, at that point in time, was in private legal practice, having completed an eight-year stint in the Massachusetts House of Representatives but not yet having gotten himself elected governor of the state.)

Four episodes of the notoriously bizarre late-’60s WGBH show What’s Happening, Mr. Silver? One of them ends with a figure riding laps around the studio on a motorcycle while dancers frug to the sound of “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” Another features host Silver, his producer, and a WGBH official discussing offensive material in the previous week’s episode and discussing whether the show should continue. And a third is the previous week’s offensive episode.

A 1974 episode of a show called Woman, produced by Buffalo’s WNED, that discusses marriages in which both partners work. The participants are Bennington College president Gail Parker and her husband, Bennington College vice-president Tom Parker. (The discussion is made vastly more enjoyable if you know the backstory of the Parkers’ reign at Bennington; if you don’t, it is easily enough Googled.)

A radio announcement made in October 1961, during intermission of a Boston Symphony Orchestra concert, regarding a disastrous fire earlier that day at WGBH’s television studio in Cambridge.

Going back even further, the first FM broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio, from March 1947.

The unedited sounds of a night outdoors near Carlsbad, New Mexico, summer 1979. (If I understand correctly, there are eight of these.)

Also from 1979, audio from the annual Vermont Public Radio fundraising marathon. From the program description: “The marathon includes calls to donate from the hosts, recorded music, an interview about the synclavier, and the last half hour is a fuzzy program about food preservation.” Go ahead, try to convince me you’re doing something more interesting or worthwhile than listening to that right now.

KQED in San Francisco’s award-winning 1980 production Broken Arrow: Can A Nuclear Weapons Accident Happen Here?, which is maybe circa-1980 speculative news reporting filtered down to its purest essence.

A 1977 Missouri public radio show about numerology. This episode is about 3, which, as we all know, is the magic number.

Flaky kids’ TV from the Seventies. (There’s gotta be much more than this but I haven’t found it yet.)

A 1967 edition of a show called Spectrum titled “The Jet Train is Here.

A 1976 edition of Pantechnicon, “a nightly magazine on the arts, entertainment, and new ideas,” featuring Ravi Shankar.

Numerous editions of New Jersey Nightly News from the end of the ’70s.

An audio-only recording of station IDs and technical difficulty announcements from Corvallis, Oregon, from the 1960s and ’70s — including one that notes the loss of the audio feed (an announcement that would, in theory, be completely useless; I wonder how many times they used it.)

I’d much rather watch and listen to this stuff (and dig up more like it) than write about it; I think I’ve served enough examples to indicate the sort of funk I’m finding.

Hello, goodbye.

Those of you who remember my touchy-feely essay about dropping my older kid off for his freshman year at college might be interested to know that I did the drop-off again yesterday … and it went so smoothly I didn’t even go up to the kid’s room.

We pulled over curbside for the two-minute drill, and by some miracle, all the crap in the car fit into the rolling hamper. I didn’t need to go park in the garage and bring up anything else.

So I left him to his own devices to wheel his grossly overloaded hamper (a bin laden, you could call it) up to his room. I didn’t have to be there for any further steps in the process, and I wasn’t; he can put his own gear on his own closet shelf.

I dunno. Sentiment aside, maybe I should have parked and gone up just to case out the place, in an I’m-paying-room-and-board, what-am-I-getting sort of mindset. But I didn’t.

The lad (you’ll know him by his hair) waves a quick goodbye as he gets rolling. You’ll also note that he’s wearing his winter coat.

Meanwhile, there will be a cross-country trip for a college visit with the younger son in a month or so. There’s a chance that his eventual college dropoff will have a long plane ride in front of it. Sure, why not. He has never been the sort to choose the convenient or easy option, anyway.

I have two American Top 40 countdowns open right now and can’t make myself listen to, or write about, either of ’em. Maybe some other time.

Off to the faces.

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I was going to weigh in on the news this past week that Major League Baseball is moving its baseball card license away from Topps and to a different company, Fanatics, in a few years, ending a 70-year connection between MLB and Topps.

Instead, I think I’ll just go straight to writing about the faces and stories of my latest box of cards, which arrived in the middle of last week.

(OK, I’ll say a few things. I’m not that sentimental about MLB’s split with Topps, because nothing lasts forever, and Topps has not been so amazingly wonderful and fault-free that they couldn’t be improved upon. I hope Fanatics makes a reasonably priced, gimmick-free product that is easily accessible — or at least a reasonably priced, gimmick-free, accessible base set that can then be accented by whatever goofball novelty stuff they feel like coughing up. As a one-or-two-pack-a-year guy, my opinion doesn’t matter that much anyway.)

Anyhow, we’ll open the box. Off to the faces!

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I was good friends for a while in high school with a girl who had a thing for Alexander Mogilny, the Russian-born scoring star for the not-quite-hometown Buffalo Sabres.

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I dunno, he musta been cute or something.

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Might as well get all the Russkies out of the way early. In 1992, the California Angels signed three Russian players for a rousing $1,500 bonus apiece. None of them got within 5,000 miles of the major leagues, but Topps put them on an entertaining card in 1993 — a definite time capsule from those early post-Cold War years. (It looks at a quick glance like they may have been painted into their Angels uniforms, but I might just be cynical.)

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In the Seventies, they called this man “Disco Dan.” But in this fuzzy, frill-free 1982 Fleer card, it looks like he’s struggling just to get his bat on the ball. After the love has gone, how can you carry on?

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Why did I spend a dime on a card of a convicted murderer who died in his prison cell?

Because I suspect the Patriots, the NFL, and their sundry partners in business would love for me to forget that Aaron Hernandez ever existed … that a human being so sadly flawed could get so far in their enterprise, and have so many serious problems ignored or forgiven, simply because he had a soft pair of hands and a quick pair of feet.

They would like me to forget the sins of the past, along with the assaults and batteries to come next week, and the long-term brain trauma and crippling injuries suffered by players, and simply be awed by the pregame military flyovers and the expensive commercials and the incessant hyped-up bark of the announcers.

Fuck them, every one.

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Maybe it’s the look on Caleb Joseph’s face. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that the Baltimore Orioles have (sadly) been a rudderless ship for a long, long time. But I can’t look at this card without thinking that Mr. Joseph has just done something really, really ill-advised — like thrown wildly on a pickoff attempt — and is just in this very instant realizing his mistake.

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Not every card collector is out to pile up a stack of Mickey Mantles. A lot of us have weird quirks we look for. I haven’t made a formal fetish of it yet, but I decided a while ago that I liked cards in which cars or other vehicles sneak into the background, and maybe someday I’ll pursue them more formally.

(Why cars? I think because you don’t usually see a car in the confines of a major-league stadium, so a photo with a car or cars in it must be taken at some offbeat location like a spring-training field. And that adds a certain funk right from the get-go.)

This excellent ’82 Fleer card is a stalwart example of the genre. Mr. Jorgensen looks like he could be taking grounders at a community-college field, and for all I know, he is. Extra points for that groovy windbreaker-under-jersey look. If Fanatics can get some windbreaker-under-jersey pix, they’ll rule OK.

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I’ve written about my fondness for Topps Heritage, which are modern sets that reuse designs from many years ago. This set (issued, I believe, in 2002) nicely mimics the look of the 1953 Topps set, which used painting-style illustrations for the players.

I adore the painting treatment here of Bill Ortega, a Havana-born outfielder who appeared in five games for the 2001 Cardinals and was not heard from again at the major-league level. It’s not strictly photorealistic — it’s sort of on the near edge of photorealistic — and he’s not smiling; he seems to be aware ahead of time that this is just going to be one stop along the path.

Bill Ortega looks a little bit like he’s thinking that no one can hurt him any more than he’s already been hurt, while wishing in his heart that were actually true.

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Also from the category of wary-looking athletes, former Montreal Canadiens goalie Andre Racicot earned the legendary and derisive nickname “Red Light” — by some sources, after he gave up three goals on six shots over 13 minutes in his NHL debut. (For the non-hockey fans in the crowd — hi, Mom! — a red “goal light” is lit behind a goalie every time a goal is scored.)

He never quite lived it down. But he did get his name on Lord Stanley’s Cup as a member of the 1993 Canadiens, which is not something every player accomplishes.

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I have a commissioner card, and I’ve seen those Fifties Topps cards with the National and American League presidents, but I haven’t seen too many cards showing owners.

Wikipedia describes Bruce McNall as “a former Thoroughbred racehorse owner, sports executive, and convicted felon,” and that about sums it up.

(He owned the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League at the time this card was produced. I wonder if they ran cards of all the other owners, or if McNall was special?)

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For someone who swore off the NFL, I dropped a lot of football cards into my cart this time around. CFL cards are always welcome, especially when …

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… they feature such a funkadelic color scheme on the back (randomly intermingled green and yellow on black!)

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Many years ago, when I worked summers on the custodial staff at a nursing home, I dealt with some real characters. One of them was a painter — I think he sometimes did other maintenance tasks, but by and large he painted stuff that needed painting, and this seemed to largely sustain him. Oddly for a painter, he wore predominantly white clothing, and kept it fairly clean.

My memory of him — I think his name was Mark — is positively tinted by his absurdist approach to life. He apparently had decided to cruise through this relatively menial job on a cushion of humor … a glint of the eye, a curve at the corner of the mouth, and great comic timing.

The Resistance took many forms among the workers at the Home. Some of them, like two brothers who were both ex-military, were a little harsher and coarser than I sometimes liked. They’d brined in the ol’ fuck-the-Army a little too deeply.

Mark, in contrast, seasoned his I-don’t-care-what-happens-here with a dose of almost childish playfulness. Like the time we were talking football, and he decided to mention to our co-worker Tim that the Patriots had some guy named Tim Goad.

“Tim Goad. Tim …. Goad,” he said, then paused for effect. “Tim, are you a goad?”

Written words do not do his style justice; it was sort of reductio ad absurdum, en fuego.

And every time I see my new Tim Goad card I will recall it fondly.

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Still trying to capture my old painter-buddy’s elan vital. I am reminded of a long-ago exchange that supposedly took place between a film director and the young Robert Mitchum:

Director: “Hey, Mitchum, you remind me of a pay toilet. You know why that is?”

Mitchum, bemused: “Naww. Why is that?”

Director: “Because you don’t give a shit for nothin’.”

The people who ran the cutting machines for Fleer in ’82 didn’t let the grind bother them too much either, based on this Reid Nichols card. As a look at the top border shows, it is grossly, almost drunkenly miscut. Made it off the factory floor and into a package, though, and somebody got paid at the end of the week.

 

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One of my favorite subgenres of the sports-scrub category is the local guy who makes good with his local team … then finds no market whatsoever for his talents elsewhere, as if he were only able to competently catch bombs or hit fastballs within 20 miles of his birthplace.

I exaggerate somewhat in the case of Naaman Roosevelt, but some of the ingredients are there. He grew up in Buffalo and attended the football powerhouse that is the University of Buffalo, before making the Bills for two or three years as (I believe) an undrafted free agent, catching 25 passes.

He didn’t make it into an NFL game for anyone else … but he did go north of the border and become a regular contributor to the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. So he’s big in Buffalo and Regina. Which is better than some people manage.

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I don’t remember what year these cards are (early ’90s sometime) and none of these guys made the major leagues (one of them played seven games at Rookie level and was done.) I just really love the guys in front of the bare trees. They look so cold.

They stand in the lifeless place of reckoning, and don their best game faces.

They might be wearing stone-washed jeans.

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There’s a small subgroup of Red Sox players with a minor distinction that comes up now and again: They share a last name with a town or city in Massachusetts. Garry Hancock is one. So are Fred Lynn, Tim Wakefield, Joe Hudson, and Bill Lee.

Sadly, the Sox never got around to signing Daryl Boston back in the Eighties. And earlier this year, they ditched an infielder named C.J. Chatham. It makes one wonder sometimes just where their priorities are.

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Also on the New England tip, we have Claude “Skip” Lockwood, born in the Boston neighborhood of Roslindale; educated in the suburb of Norwood, Mass.; educated at various times at MIT and Emerson College of Boston; and resident of Cos Cob, Connecticut, at the dawn of the 1981 season. I can practically taste the cod cakes in Skip’s kitchen and see the blocky old Volvo in Skip’s driveway.

Sad to say, this is what they call a career-capper: Skip had already thrown his last major-league pitch when this card appeared. It’s still great.

(The ’81 Topps set is the first one I have clear memories of collecting, and as a result, it is indisputably the finest and most visionary design Topps ever rolled out. I will brook no dispute.)

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Punter cards are pretty great. Maybe I should make a point of collecting them.

The punter gives the lie to most of the NFL’s shtick. He is usually lanky, pale, and incapable of tackling the blow-up Tigger on his front lawn, and yet he makes an NFL salary and enjoys a place among all the bruisers.

Long may he run. (Something tells me the NFL would love to replace punters with automatons, painted to resemble Coors Light cans. Tell me I’m wrong.)

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Placekickers are pretty great too, especially when they look like drowned rats.

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People like to make fun of the prevailing design trends of the 1970s, but I’ll argue that there was a period, maybe around 1992-1994, that was just about as bad — ugly and cliched, but lacking the fun.

Look at album covers from that period and you’ll agree. Look at sports cards like this 1993 League Leaders jobbie and you’ll agree twice. (What did they lead their leagues in? Interceptions, I believe.)

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An NFL team in light creamsicle orange, with a winking pirate as a mascot? I doubt that would fly very far nowadays. Reason enough to pick up any old Tampa Bay Buccaneers stuff you come across. At least one of these guys, John Lynch, turned out to be pretty good.

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Just today I saw somebody on Twitter express the opinion that “gum is gross.” It’s not something I think I’ve heard before, or not in a long time, and it made me think.

Gum? Gross? I guess it could be. I dunno – I’ve been putting it in my mouth (and sometimes my stomach) for 40-plus years without thinking much about it. Have I been doing it wrong? A big life error? Yeesh. I might not sleep tonight, thinking about this.

Worked fine for Jeff Jones, though.

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Rest well, Joe Delaney.

Annuals.

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A question born from the previous entry: Is there anyone, when confronted with a shelf of high school yearbooks, who will pull down one significantly more recent than his or her era?

When my brother and I dropped into our hometown library the other week, he opted for the oldest yearbook on the shelf (1975). I chose the one from my freshman year, as I didn’t buy one for myself that year and am thus less familiar with the contents.

Left to my own devices, I tend to opt for the ’70s as well. The Fifties and Sixties just seem so gray and well-behaved and conformist. The ’80s … well, I might reach for one from around 1982 or so, but by and large I saw the ’80s firsthand and don’t need to go back.

But it would never occur to me to reach for 2003, or 2012, or 2018. I wonder why that is? I’m a lot less familiar with teen culture from those years (despite having had a teenager in the house for at least one of those years.) I could certainly see new things and learn new stuff if I took a couple minutes with that generation of students.

But it didn’t cross my mind the other day — and, even if I hadn’t had yearbooks with personal connections on the shelf, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

I wonder if others think the same way.

 

I never meant nothin’, I was just my father’s son.

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The inevitable thematic music.

Just back from a week off visiting the folks in the Finger Lakes. There will be more to say about this at a later point, but not quite yet.

As part of this visit, my brother and I went back to the town where we grew up for the first time in several years, and probably the last for a while. We visited our one close friend who still lives there, and we drove around and saw some sights.

We went to see Village Green, the tract-neighborhood where we lived for about 15 years or so, including the first 13 years of my life. It was remarkable how small everything seemed — the houses, the streets. The front yard where we used to run for hours now looks like it could be spanned in a dozen ambitious steps.

I’m fairly sure I’ve been back to that neighborhood before as an adult, but I never had this impression this strongly before. So small.

IMG_9153Favorite childhood climbing tree: Still present and, from the looks of it, still climbable. The yard in front was a frequent Nerf/two-hand touch football field.

The condition of the houses in Village Green has also declined since we lived there. A few more unmowed lawns; a few more sun-faded coats of paint; a few more places where primer has been applied but has not been chased by a topcoat.

There’s another large tract a bike-ride away, Penfield Gardens, where the houses are a little bit bigger and fancier, and they’ve been kept up every bit as well as they were thirty years ago. Perhaps Village Green is now a destination for the less affluent, or a place where you live until you can swing Penfield Gardens.

(The housing stock in town seems firmly divided into two camps — 1960s split-levels, and 2000s McMansions — and I imagine the truly loaded go straight to the McMansions. We eventually moved out of Village Green as well, but we didn’t go to Penfield Gardens. My folks wanted a place that wasn’t cut from the same design template as all the houses around it, and they found one.)

We dropped past a local park that hosted both our childhood sledding hill and a high-school cross-country course. The hill we sledded down again and again as kids, and ran up again and again as high-school runners, didn’t look any too large either. I dunno — it seemed like work back then.

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The Man didn’t post any sledding rules when we were kids, and we grew up just fine, more or less. No headfirst sledding? No ramps? No walking back up the middle of the hill? The 21st century can go screw itself sometimes.

We went to our high school, which gives the exact opposite impression: It has been extensively remodeled and expanded and is significantly bigger than it was when we left it, with a surrounding ring of athletic facilities that sprawl like the suburbs of Los Angeles.

We saw the track and field leaderboard that hangs near the new all-weather track. (Or, at least, the track is “new” in that it’s been added since we left, replacing the old cinder relic we ran on. It might not be “new” at this point to people who live in town.)

My brother was crestfallen to learn that the final school record he held, in the 4×400-meter relay, was broken in 2019; he no longer has a spot on the board.

Four or five of our compatriots from the 1980s and 1990s are still represented, so our day must not have completely faded into sepia yet. But, they could go at any time. It only takes one kid with good legs and a work ethic to write new history, and that kid could be breaking in his/her first pair of shoes for his/her first season as I type this.

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Our school changed its mascot from Chiefs to Patriots many years ago. Apparently some people still grumble about it but I am firmly in favor. The granite sign that used to greet visitors at the entrance to the school, a gift from the Class of 1985, now sits in a garden in front of the football stadium.

We had some time to kill so we went past our old elementary and middle schools, which are conjoined.

The middle school — which now hosts three grades instead of two — is greatly expanded. The elementary school looks more like its old self, with the addition of some extra parking and some nicer playground equipment. The Natureland woods area behind the elementary school is still there. Some of the interior trees have been cleared, but at least it’s not fifty new houses.

We ducked into the town library and looked at the yearbooks — some from our generation, some from older. I looked myself up, and some other people besides. No pictures, sorry.

We also ended up walking through the town’s main cemetery. This is perhaps not as weird as it sounds, as there was a period when we walked through it every day to get to and from the high school; we were not strangers to the place.

A fence now separates the high school, library, and fields from the cemetery. For a while the fence-block was total. At some point they put in a door, acknowledging that some visitors might make the transit discreetly.

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My brother and I spent rather more time than we expected finding the obelisk of town paterfamilias Daniel Penfield, so you get a photo as proof of the quest.

We walked a loop through the cemetery, and near the end we found the grave of my brother’s former piano teacher and her husband, both friends of my parents.

We would sometimes go to their house for Christmas parties, and the husband’s fondness for making batches of pizza fritta rubbed off, I think, on my brother, who went through a teenage phase where he made this Italian snack fairly frequently. They were both good people, and I can still hear the wife’s distinctive laugh at the edge of my memory. They have both been gone longer than I thought.

I am reminded that friend networks protect against everything from dementia to depression to suicide … and that, unlike my parents, I have never really had one, or not since my college friends scattered and I chose to fall out of touch with them. I negotiated my kids’ entire childhood without building the kinds of contacts who would invite me to go watch football games on a Sunday or come over for a Christmas party.

I have probably done it wrong (“it” being social life), but my choices and behavior reflect my personality and preferences, and there is no changing that.

On our way out we also passed the grave of a young man, six months younger than I and one grade behind me in high school.

I remembered his name but had not thought of him in years, and had to pull out my phone and visit Newspapers dot com to refresh myself on the circumstances of his passing. About two-and-a-half years after his high school graduation — time spent attending community college and playing lacrosse — he went into a dodgy part of the city to buy marijuana and was shot dead.

His grave features a sizable photo-etching of him in his high school lacrosse uniform, stick in hand, eternally eighteen. He looks out into a world where, as soon as next year, the state of New York will enter the business of selling legal marijuana.

I wonder whether my insular, relatively affluent, high-achieving hometown will open its arms to pot shops — indeed, whether it will be required to. This debate was not even remotely on the radar screen back in the beer-party days.

Oh, yes, my brother and I made one other stop. He wanted once more to dig into that most Rochesterian of dishes, the garbage plate.

The original purveyor and trademark owner, Nick Tahou’s, is closed, but you can get “rubbish plates” or similar combos in dining places all over the city. At Bill Gray’s restaurant in the Panorama Plaza area of Penfield, we (yeah, I helped him out) ordered a cheeseburger Great Plate. Two patties, macaroni salad, home fries, hot sauce, and a token bun.

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This might actually have done more than my deficient social network to hasten my death. But, yes, it was good, and well worth eating.

And today I am in Massachusetts, home.

Late show.

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I have dreamed, several times, of watching a mysterious UHF station (remember those?) that shows cryptic and disturbing horror movies after hours.

In the dreams, I am drawn to the station by its appealing, crackly low-budget funk, and perhaps also in hopes of finding out who’s sending out the broadcasts. And so I keep watching even though I know I’m not going to like whatever comes on next. (Last night’s featured presentations, at least, were relatively mild.)

The parallels to my use of Twitter (I go for baseball cards and radio surveys, but get a faceful of the social and natural apocalypse) seem inescapable.