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Days off.

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I was overdue for a vacation, and here are some highlights from the first two of the salaryman’s three days off. Probably shoulda taken the whole week.

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I put in a pair of blackberry bushes at my old house in Pennsylvania and always liked having them around, so I’m duplicating the experiment here. Took me a couple of stops to find a blackberry bush. Even the fancy-schmancy locally owned nursery didn’t have any — maybe they’re not supposed to grow around here or something. But eventually I found a couple at Lowe’s, tucked suspiciously among a pallet of clematis, and here we go.

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Planted some other stuff today also.

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Yesterday I did something I’d wanted to do for a while – hiked Mount Watatic, a small (1800-foot) mountain right up against the Mass./New Hampshire state line. The distant landscape-bumps in this picture make me think I was looking north toward New Hampshire when I took it. On a clear day you can see the Boston skyline to the east; I got a picture but won’t post it here.

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Oddly, there are not one but two U.S. Geodetic Survey markers at the top of Mount Watatic. I thought they were usually more spaced out than that. (Perhaps one marker is for some other survey; I didn’t look at them both closely, although I took pix of both.)

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The New Hampshire state line is 1.3 miles from the peak of the mountain so I walked there as well. The state line is marked at several points on the Wapack and Midstate trails, including this granite slab that marks the meeting point of three towns and two states. (“A&A MASS” means Ashby and Ashburnham, Massachusetts, while “NI NH” means New Ipswich, New Hampshire.)

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Another marker of the state line, over my shoulder, which looks as if it was made with one of those ’70s woodburning kits like my brother once had. (I never did. Guess they fell out of vogue. Or my folks just didn’t trust me with a hot iron.) I appear content to have temporarily thrown in my lot with New Hampshire, perhaps because it is closer to Montreal.

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Maybe most noteworthy of all: I do enjoy a good plate of tacos on a day off, not to mention locally brewed beer. So from Mount Watatic I drove to the Gardner Ale House, maybe 10 or 15 minutes away in the city of Gardner, Mass., where I undid any benefit from my hike by enjoying a small glass of English bitter, a pint of porter, and a pair of Korean beef tacos.

(The tacos were pretty good, setting aside the fact that I’m not usually into quite that much beef at once and didn’t really grok what I was getting into.)

I realized early on that this was my first meal out at a restaurant in … literally, I don’t remember how long. We’ve ordered out and brought food home once in a while but I don’t remember the last time I physically parked my arse inside a restaurant to eat and drink. 

They were still requiring masks when not stuffing your face. But with today’s CDC announcement that the fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks in many settings, I suspect that might go out the window soon. It feels like the move toward something resembling “normal” is gaining speed. (Of course I hope we don’t all end up regretting it, but that seems to be where we’re going.)

I feel a need to do something epic tomorrow with my remaining day off (Vermont?) but I’m thinking this plate of tacos and this pint of beer might end up being the most memorable part of the vacation.

Doing my bit for The Knowledge.

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One of the great aspirations of the amateur and the dabbler is to make even a tiny contribution to the work of the authority and the expert. I have accomplished this twice in the past two days — on a tiny scale, yes — and so you get to hear about it.

I was interacting with one or two Peanuts experts on Twitter this morning when I reposted something I’d found last fall. It was a droll TV listing from a newspaper in British Columbia in October 1973, purporting that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was “a celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving.” It made one question whether the person writing the television highlights had actually seen the show. 

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I didn’t immediately realize that one of the people I was talking to, Nat Gertler, is a “professional Peanuts nerd of long standing” (his description) with an impressive CV that includes authorship of several licensed Peanuts-related books, appearances as a talking-head commentator on Peanuts DVDs, and speaking gigs at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, among other places. The dude knows from Peanuts, basically.

He described the Canadian TV info as “a significant find,” noting that sources like Wikipedia and IMDB all list the show’s premiere date as November 20, 1973 — the first time it aired on American TV. (That august source of TV commentary, Neck Pickup, has used that date as well.)

But Canadian Thanksgiving takes place in early October, a month-and-a-half before American Thanksgiving. TV listings and articles from several Canadian newspapers in October 1973 make clear that the show’s first airing anywhere was in Canada — in markets all over the country — for that year’s Canadian Thanksgiving. Gertler did a little more poking around and wrote his own blog post about it, settling on October 6 as the show’s real first airdate.

(At least back then, U.S. communities close to the border were often able to receive Canadian TV stations. It seems possible that Peanuts fans in Detroit or Buffalo could have been weeks ahead of their fellow Americans in watching Charlie Brown’s big feast and grooving to Vince Guaraldi’s mellow, autumnal theme music. See, it pays to live in Detroit or Buffalo.)

As breakthroughs go, this doesn’t rank with Jonas Salk discovering the polio vaccine. But if I have contributed one scintilla of information to the world’s Peanuts knowledge bank, I consider myself to have done a great service.

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The other interaction took place on Twitter as well, with a fellow member of the Society for American Baseball Research who uses the handle Minor Lg No Hitters. As his name would suggest, he researches no-hit games thrown in the minor leagues.

Following up on the semi-controversial seven-inning “no-hitter” recently thrown by Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner, my fellow SABR member posted a list of about 1,500 minor-league no-hitters lasting fewer than nine innings. Clearly, a lot of research went into that list, and I was impressed as I looked at it.

However, I noticed that a 1972 game I wrote about for the SABR Games Project was not included, so I sent it along for consideration. Mr. No Hitters did the research to confirm that it happened, then added it to his list and tweeted out the new addition. Again, I was pleased to toss in my nugget.

Who knows what I could accomplish if I set my sights on something really significant? Maybe some other day we’ll find out…

“I get a buzz from making people happy.”

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Thirty years ago, in my senior year of high school, my vinyl collection encompassed both the Digital Underground’s Sex Packets and the Bay City Rollers’ Rock n’ Roll Love Letter.

Since some of what goes on here is still driven by the long shadow of Teenage Kurt, I feel obliged to write something about the deaths this week of the principal protagonists of both albums — Digital Underground songwriter/producer/rapper/central figure Gregory “Shock G” Jacobs, and Rollers singer Les McKeown.

We’ll take McKeown first, since I have relatively less to say about him.

We all have exceptions to our personal rules of taste and behavior. Hang out long enough with a devoted healthy eater, and you’ll find they keep a box of Devil Dogs in their freezer as their sole but unbreakable dietary indulgence. Get to know a beer snob well, and you’ll find there’s that one mass-market brew — Pabst Blue Ribbon, say — that they’re never without in the fridge.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Bay City Rollers were my artistic exception. They were smooth where I (generally) preferred jagged, cheerful where I (generally) preferred up-yours, and prefab where I (almost always) preferred authentic.

But they were goofy in a likeable way. They were totally non-challenging; you didn’t need to think. And they exuded pure essence of Seventies, which seemed so much more interesting than the Eighties and Nineties. Getting to know their records — which could be had cheap — was the closest feasible thing to buying a secondhand leisure suit and throwing in my lot with an earlier era.

(The music itself? Yes. The music itself was rather pallid, and sometimes superfluous to requirements — there’s really no need to listen to anyone except the Beach Boys sing “Don’t Worry Baby,” for instance. I did not spend hours and hours listening to the music.)

I didn’t know then that the Rollers’ backstory was a show-biz screwjob for the ages, as the perky Scots lads came away with practically none of the millions of dollars they generated.

I also didn’t know that, during the entire time the Rollers were breaking big in the States in the fall of 1975, McKeown was up on charges related to killing a woman with his car — a situation I wrote about some years ago that must have been titanically difficult for a young man to handle. (I mention it here not to bring up old dirt, but out of a genuine sense of empathy: McKeown’s world must have been spinning like a roller-coaster the entire time, and of course there was no support beyond a shove in the back to push him onstage every day.)

Les McKeown is one of those pop figures whose life might have been legitimately easier if he’d stayed in Scotland and worked all his life in a showerhead factory. But, he took the ride, at cost to himself. Now, I can’t think about those old Rollers albums without the behind-the-scenes bitterness. The human price.

Which, I dunno, maybe only makes the Rollers even more interesting in the end.

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From a quickie Rollers paperback I bought at the annual library booksale back in 1989 or so. It says something that, eight moves later, I still own it. As for WHAT it says, send your answer to old Pink, care of the funny farm, Edinburgh.

And then there’s Shock G — and I’ve actually been quite impressed that all the headlines and social media messages I see refer to him as Shock G.

Jacobs, as most readers will know, had another alias besides Shock G. Clad in a pair of prop glasses and an outsized nose, he portrayed the comically bawdy character Humpty Hump — who served as the voice of the Underground’s huge breakthrough hit, 1990’s “The Humpty Dance.”

(Both Shock G and Humpty showed up on the earlier single “Doowutchalyke,” an irreverent, deeply funky party jam I loved in 1991 and, yes, still love now.)

I am sure there are millions of Americans — most of them white, most of them my age — who would not recognize the names Gregory Jacobs or Shock G, but who would have an instant mental connection with Humpty Hump. And yet, the purists who know Shock G seem to be carrying the day. I am impressed.

Beyond Sex Packets, my only other intersection with Shock G and the Underground came in the late ’90s or so, when I took their album Sons of the P out of the local library.

It was an inspired bit of mythmaking, casting the Underground’s bunch of weirdos as the next-generation spiritual heirs of the Parliament-Funkadelic bunch of weirdos — another gang from the Seventies that was so much more interesting than contemporary acts. (This concept also gave the Underground karmic clearance to sample the hell out of P-Funk, not that anybody back then really needed a pretext.)

The tune that most stuck in my head was “The D-FLO Shuttle,” a tribute to a mythical train (I think it was mythical – you can’t be too sure) that carried the members of the Underground from their secret lair to the real world and back again.

I suspect that Shock G and his colleagues were talented enough to carry off their comparison to the mighty P-Funk. It’s a shame that they didn’t reach the same level of legend, and it’s unfortunate that I don’t know the rest of their material as well as I know the recordings of P-Funk.

(Or the recordings of Les McKeown, for that matter.)

 

It’s crazy to be tied down when we’re only passing through here.

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Am I in a Friday night happy place, despite rain, snow, wind, and work pressures?

Why, yes, I am.

(There was snow here today. For an extended period. Didn’t stick to much, but still. I’ve gotta get used to it snowing after Tax Day. Today I learned that the latest calendar day on which measurable snow fell in Boston is May 10. Same in Providence. Just to be sure, I’ll move the snow shovels from the carport to the shed sometime around the All-Star break.)

The happy-making news, anyway, is that there’s a certain low-profile ’70s album that should have been in my collection 25 years ago … and I finally shelled out for the MP3 version today and am listening to it now.

And my only question is: What took me so long?

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I’ve always sorta wondered about the backstory behind singer-songwriter-keyboardist Robert Lamm’s album Skinny Boy.

The record, issued in late summer 1974, was the first solo LP by any member of Chicago. They were huge at the time — every album they released threw off a couple of Top Twenty singles.

And Skinny Boy wasn’t the work of just any member of Chicago. It featured the guy who’d written and/or sung the majority of the band’s hits up to that time, although he was just on the verge of handing the reins to Peter Cetera.

(Veteran readers know my connection to Chicago. My dad played them a lot around the house when I was a kid, and I developed a lifelong fondness — especially for Lamm’s voice, which for me is the aural equivalent of comfort, like a soft blanket and a tablespoon of Coke syrup on an unsettled night. If Robert Lamm’s were the last voice I ever heard, I would go gently.)

I’m not aware that Skinny Boy cracked the charts at any level, though. A search of the invaluable ARSA database of local radio airplay charts shows that Skinny Boy placed on exactly two small-market charts from September 1974 — one on a progressive station, one on a college station. The album’s title track — which showed up on Chicago VII with horn overdubs — also popped up on three charts from Pittsburgh’s KDKA in March 1975.

Pretty underwhelming performance given the performer’s pedigree, it seems to me. This ain’t Stu from Des Moines we’re talking about; this is the guy who wrote and sang “Saturday in the Park.” (His buddy Terry Kath shows up playing bass, too, though I have to admit he’s no James Jamerson.)

Granted, Seventies Chicago was famous for being “faceless” and hiding behind its logo. There were probably plenty of record buyers in September 1974 who had heard Robert Lamm’s voice but didn’t know his name. Still, the idea of a proven pop songwriter and singer falling so completely through the cracks is bewildering to me.

Peter Cetera issued his own first solo album in the fall of 1981, and later accused his record label of burying it — doing only limited promotion and advertising — for fear that Cetera would leave Chicago if it were successful. I wonder if the same dynamics were at hand for Skinny Boy — if the record company got itself into a position where it had to issue a Robert Lamm LP for some reason, but didn’t want it to perform too well and give the artist any big ideas about a solo career.

Indeed, I think the reason I never owned a copy of Skinny Boy was that, in my most active rack-digging vinyl-buying years, I never noticed a copy.

But it can be had easily enough on MP3. And tonight, it has been.

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So how is it so far?

Well, I’ve only been through it once. (Did I mention that, while I have my issues with pop-music site Stereogum, I love that they run first-day record reviews under the title “Premature Evaluation“? A real valid judgment takes more than just a couple spins or a couple days.)

But on first listen, it delivers everything I could want. There are no horns — a conscious decision, I think, to set Skinny Boy apart from the parent band. But there are some cool string arrangements, and big big big singer-songwriter hooks, and vaguely “jazzy” (or, at least, complicated-by-pop-standards) chords, and a little bit of “funk” here and there, and Lamm’s soaring, uncolored Brooklyn honk above it all.

As befitting a guy who once complained in song about maitre d’s seating him because he was rich, the lyrics here don’t always connect. Album closer “Crazy Brother John” is some sort of medieval reverie that ends, rather abruptly, on a murder. It reminds me of another 1974 album — Grand Funk’s Shinin’ On — whose Side B ends, suddenly and bluntly, with a lead character being sent to prison.

“Someday I’m Gonna Go” consists almost entirely of the sentiment “Someday I’m gonna go / far away, far away, far away / Far, far away / I’m gonna go-ooooo,” and one is left to wonder from a 21st-century juncture whether Lamm is singing about his band, or his marriage, or the institution of pop stardom, or something else again. (“Did you ever want to run and hide yourself away? Did you ever cry, there was nothing there, was nothing there, was nothing there.“)

It’s always at least mildly interesting to hear a star sing something like this. He’s worked his way to the top, achieved what he dreamed of when he was playing Mob-run joints in Chicago, and he turns out this vaguely worded yearning for the mythical Big Nowhere.

Given a choice between the two Big Rock Star Prototypes, I’d rather spend time with the lonely-at-the-top seekers than the Porsche-driving, hotel-wrecking pirates … and Lamm is the former, in hearts and spades.

And then there’s “Until The Time Runs Out,” which as best I can tell is sung in the persona of a lonely, elderly widower whose only release comes from playing bocce with his buddies. On first listen it’s a WTF scenario, and repeat listenings don’t entirely improve it (“No one to call my own / My children ne-ver phone.”)

And yet: Why not? If Ray Davies or Randy Newman wrote from this guy’s perspective, they’d probably be acclaimed for their perceptiveness. There’s probably a real person behind this song, and if I could pull up a folding lawn chair and see his craggy face and hear him talk, I’d probably think this was a great, acid-edged slice of cinema verite, rather than a curio.

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Above clipping from Billboard magazine, sometime around September-October 1974. You thought I was joking about the bocce, didn’t you? If you’ve seen the short film, let me know.

On the more successful side of the ledger, there’s “One Step Forward Two Steps Back,” which could have been written yesterday about mankind’s continuing struggle to come to terms with climate change: “Trust in the big circle game in the sky / To save us again and again as we try / One step forward, two steps back.” Humankind is not still here because we are good at facing and solving our own problems; we are here by some greater forgiveness and grace, it seems, and that is just as true now as it was in 1974.

Let’s face it: It would take an awful, awful lot of badness for me to dislike a Seventies Robert Lamm solo album. It would have to be, I dunno, all amateur reggae or something, and all cover versions, and mostly sung by a children’s choir, and recorded through a woolen sock to boot.

Skinny Boy is none of these things. It is a solid dose of mellow, autumnal, jazzy-poppy Seventies singer-songwriter goodness. I have no idea why it doesn’t seem to be celebrated or well-known or popular. A person of Seventies orientation could very easily mellow out their head and spend a pleasant 35 minutes or so with Skinny Boy. (I could very easily mellow out my head and spend two hours.)

I am glad I finally got to know this missing link, and while it is no forgotten masterpiece, I foresee it soundtracking my idle hours for some time to come.

You can be the creator of a miserable world.

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Sometimes the only way to get rid of an earworm is to desecrate it.

You can be an expert from England or France

You can guess who you want to play

You can be the creator of a miserable world

Maybe you have long lighted areas

 

But obviously you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people

 

You may have hemorrhoids and blood clots on stage

Have your own medicine, cage female blood

You can be a merchant or a thief

This will be called a doctor or owner

 

But obviously you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people

 

You can be a runner, you can be a minor from Turkey

You can host other TV shows

Rich or poor, blind or lame

You can live abroad under another name

 

But obviously you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people

 

You can work from home

You can live in a big house or bowl

You can have a gun and you can have a tank

You have a house, you have a bank

 

But obviously you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people

 

You can be a preacher of spiritual pride

You can be the coach who fixes it

Whether you are a hairdresser or not, you can learn to cook

You can be an amateur, you can be an heir

 

But obviously you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people

 

You want to make cotton, you want to make silk

If you want to drink alcohol, you have to stop smoking

I want to eat caviar, I want to eat bread

You can sleep and sleep in your own bed

 

But obviously you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people

 

You can call me Terry, you can call me Timmy

You could call me Bobby or Jimmy

You can call me RJ, you can call me dad

You can call me whatever you say

 

Basically you have to work for one

You have to serve the people

Yes, it could be Satan or the Lord

But you have to serve the people
Anata va Igirisu ya furansu koi taishi ni naru koto ga dekimasu anata va kaketai kamo shiremsen
Ir Kent Zeyen un Ambassador in Ingiltera oder Frankrecht

Ir Jail Velan Tsu Gavet Ir Jal Velan Tsu Shapilni Naru
Tus igalaiṇḍa jāṁ pharānsa dē māhara hō sakadē hō

You are not allowed to view this file.

All the skirts are really off.

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In which we use Google Translate to translate the lyrics of the new Mick Jagger/Dave Grohl pandemic song, “Easy Sleazy,” from English, to French, to Hungarian, to Italian, to Finnish, to Haitian Creole, to Malagasy, and finally back to English again. It might actually make just as much sense this way. (Lyrics used as posted on Brooklyn Vegan, adjusted only to add appropriate apostrophes.)

We carried him on his chin
Here are the numbers
Prices around the dress
KILL THE SEEDS
Outside the yard
WHAT TO DO
IT CAN be considered very serious

Look at the picture
AND INCREASE EN
ALL JUDGES WILL HAVE
Football is not good
ADDITIONAL BOOKS
VIRTUAL FIRST
I have no registration

THIS IS A RULE OF JUSTICE
PLEASE BE PLEASED IF YOU ARE TRANSFERRING
EASY Men are easy
All the GONAs are really good
Dinner
Soon there will be forgotten memories

Nice mask
But don’t keep happiness locked up at all, I’m dancing TYMMÄT
Take the SAMBA tutorial
I came back later
He tries to write a song
The better ZOOMAJELELU the better
SEE PONCEY’S BOOK
They will teach you to cook
SOK SOK TV
LOBOTOMIZE
I think it’s worth it
MY SECOND
I cleaned the kitchen

We got out of the prison walls
PUBLISHED AND SELECTED P DOT
EASY Men are easy
All the GONAs are really good
Dinner
PLEASE COUNTRY COUNTRY A
SIMPLE FIT: The boy’s skirt is made of silicone and oil
Easy to believe
THIS IS THE ONLY MEMORY YOU REMEMBER
Forget it

Do it
Bill Gates in my blood
CONTROL THE MINUTE NOW
The ground is flat and cold
The temperature never rises
The Arctic was shot into the jungle
The second arrival was late
It is outside in a deep state

In doing so, we escape the prison walls
DO NOT remove these old walls
COME ON LOVE WHAT YOU CAN PAL
EASY Men are easy
All the skirts are really off
Dinner
We all go back to heaven
Easy to believe
This is a memory you can forget
Light cheese
THE SONG INVITES US ALL
This is a memory you forgot

The weather’s been pretty nice.

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High time to wiggle out of Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair and leave another journal entry. What’s new?

-I have been approached to make my first appearance on a podcast, to be recorded later this month for distribution in May. It seems at least 90 percent certain but I’ll share more details when it’s 100 percent settled, so you can be sure to avoid it. Suffice it to say for now that, in a world with a million podcasts, this must surely be one of the most obscure and esoteric.

-My main-slash-only creative outlet for the time being continues to be the Society for American Baseball Research. A bunch of new game stories — and maybe even a ballpark bio — have gone up there since the last time I plugged it.

No one wants to read ’em who already hasn’t. But if you’re out there and interested, the best way to see ’em all is to visit my author page. There’s a couple of pages worth of story links so don’t forget to hit Next.

-The Internet Archive’s series of vinyl rips has greatly slowed and fallen into an uninteresting rut, so I haven’t found anything fantabulous there lately. A while ago I found some recordings in a back corner of the Archive that strictly speaking shouldn’t have been there. Being amoral and a pack rat besides, I grabbed the downloads, and now I need to burn some of those onto disc and listen to them. 

Good/interesting read of the day came from Twitter. It’s a commentary by a woman who inspired a long-ago song by R.E.M., and how her story seems to morph, twist, and distort every time somebody writes something new about the band or the song. I’m not a huge fan of the song but you don’t have to be to appreciate the narrative.

The piece was written quite a few years ago; by this time, R.E.M. biographers have probably turned her into an interstellar cannibal zombie or something.

-Got my first dose of the vaccine. Second dose is booked for just about two weeks from now.

-It will be 70 degrees in Massachusetts this weekend and I wish to hell I could see some live baseball but I don’t think I can. Colleges aren’t allowing fans, and the spring high school sports season is only just starting because they jammed a replacement “fall” season into the first part of spring. Sigh.

Droste and other effects.

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Today I got my latest package of baseball (and other) cards, and this new batch might just be the most Kurt Blumenau thing that ever Kurt Blumenau-ed. So, you get pictures and comments on some of them.

(Look on the bright side: At least there’s pictures!)

IMG_6730 Ah, yes, the infamous 1993 Upper Deck Mike Perez. I’ve low-key wanted one of these for a while, and so I finally laid out my 10 cents for one.

If you look closely (you probably can’t see it in this pic), the card Perez is holding has writing across his face — must be a proof. I don’t think that detracts in the slightest from the brilliance of this one.

 

 

 

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Similarly, I picked up a bunch of manager cards — one of several jags I indulged in this time around — and this one of former Seattle Mariners manager John McLaren has to be one of the coolest manager cards that’s ever been.

Managers are stereotypically shown shouting at their players, often through cupped hands. But this shot heralds a new, more equal era in manager-player relations. McLaren and Ichiro are truly partners in the success of the Mariners.

Ain’t understanding mellow?

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I bought, or more likely received, several packs of 1984 Fleer back in 1984. Probably around this time of year, probably in an Easter basket. I always liked the look of the set, and when I found a couple of cheap ’84 Fleers on offer, I snapped them up.

We will further discuss the 1984 products of Fleer later on in this post.

 

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“1st Bowman Card!” How perfectly exciting!

The more obscure a player is, the more I perk up over his cards. This young man is Jabari Blash, a Virgin Islander who, to date, has hit .186 in 123 major-league games over three seasons. In this card, though, he is young and upcoming.

(You know what? Maintaining this format is a pain in the arse.)

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This card scratches a couple of itches. One, I’m just about always interested in minor-league cards. Two, I saw Joe Hudson make his major-league debut at Fenway Park, one of very few players I can say that about. He didn’t hang around in the majors long, and I may be the last person in New England who remembers him, but when I spotted his card I had to pick it up.

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Another Red Sox favorite from my college years. Tony Fossas didn’t reach the bigs until age 30 but then hung around for 12 seasons, chiefly on the strength of a sloppy sidearm curveball he liked to call “the frisbee.” I picked up a couple Fossases in this buying round to go along with the three I already had, including the one I induced him by mail to autograph. Yup, I did that.

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The trainer card is a grand tradition in minor league baseball, often inserted to pad out card sets. I’ve probably got three or four of them now. Tony, in his color-coded pants, looks ready to address any ailment.

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On a small scale, I also dig Topps’ Heritage issues, in which they resurrect card designs from years past. This one reuses the 1958 design to, IMHO, good effect.

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Mike and Mark Bavis, hockey-playing twins from the Boston neighborhood of Roslindale, attended Boston University at the same time I did and were regular contributors to BU’s hockey team. (I did not know them; the hockey players existed in a special bubble dictated by their unique circumstances, and while I had one or two classes with them, I did not know them.)

Both Bavises played minor-league hockey. Mark became a scout for the Los Angeles Kings; he and fellow scout Ace Bailey were killed on September 11, 2001, in the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 175. Mike, apparently, is on the BU coaching staff nowadays.

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I feel less and less affiliated with Rochester with each passing month, but every so often something presses that button, and a card of Jody Gage is one such thing. (If you know the saga of Mr. Amerk, you know the saga of Mr. Amerk.)

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I believe I mentioned collectors’ obsession with rookie cards — the first card issued of a particular player. This spilled over in the ’90s to a point where card makers, even the flagship Topps, were slapping unproven draft picks’ faces onto cardboard, just to be in the race to issue that all-important first card.

Some of these guys — the lucky ones — got shown on their cards in the uniform of their high school or college baseball program. They, at least, got depicted in a baseball setting. Others, like these guys, got photographed in street clothes, and in retrospect, they look all kinds of derpy.

Neither Mike Rossiter nor Rich Ireland made the big leagues; Ireland didn’t get past rookie-level ball. But, he has a Topps card. That’s a legit accomplishment. Me, I love cards of guys who only got a cup of coffee in the bigs or didn’t get there at all. So these dressed-up dudes are just my speed.

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I bought this card sight unseen and I am proud to say it exceeds even my wildest expectations. This is former Boston College football coach Jack Bicknell, coaching in the old World League of American Football (WLAF, pronounced “we-laugh.”) Mein Gott, that sweater!

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I think I mentioned that coach and manager cards were a jag. Entraineur doesn’t mean “trainer,” like Tony from Pawtucket. It means “coach.” (As if any Canadian kid who pulled this card would have mistaken Mr. Gregory for a player…)

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I was made for lovin’ you, baby / You were made for lovin’ me…” What in the hell are they pointing at?

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The back of this card includes the anecdote: “Mrs. Adubato states: ‘He dreams about sports every night. One night I woke up and he was palming my head.'”

I wish I were making that up.

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Another big card gimmick of the past quarter-century is shiny cards. Gold, silver, chrome, refractors, whatever. My limited understanding is that Topps (probably others too) now issues multiple shades of refractor cards in addition to a player’s standard “base” card, to the point where it’s damn near impossible to organically collect a full set of cards because of all the shiny variations.

Anyhow, the shiny thing has always felt a little … forced … to me when it’s applied to a player whose career doesn’t make you think of gold, silver or platinum. Like Joe Klink, here. A perfectly serviceable reliever for a couple of years, but no Tony Fossas by any stretch.

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The Celtics were pretty dismal when I went to school in Boston (I never went to see them play.) For some reason, point guard Chris Corchiani — who played with three teams in three seasons — sticks out in my mind as the kind of player the Celts were picking up around that time, kinda like how Dooley Womack stands out as an exemplar of a certain period of New York Yankees players. So, for cheap, I picked up a college memory.

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Same with this guy. Link Gaetz played two seasons in the NHL and purveyed my absolute least favorite style of hockey — he was a raging goon who compiled 400-plus penalty minutes in 65 NHL games. I mainly remember him from playing computer hockey against my sophomore year roommate, when we would order Domino’s and make an evening out of trying to pound the cyber-tar out of each other. Link Gaetz was good for that.

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Another Heritage jobbie – I think 1963 or ’64 is the design being aped. This guy just looks like the quintessential hayseed who’s pitched his way off the tractor, which I love. (In real life I am sure Mr. Perry was the modern baseball player in every way — protein shakes and spin analysis and pitch counts and agents and whatever else.)

Topps, not having reached my jugular well enough with the Heritage series, has taken it up a notch by doing Heritage-type cards of minor-league players. Mr. Perry, here, topped out at Double-A ball; he is shown as a member of the South Bend (Indiana) Silver Hawks.

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A number of Topps Heritage cards that ape the 1970 design have weird, unreal, off-puttingly artificial background colors. What weather does that sky portend?

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As I was saying…

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Eddie Haas got a single Topps card as a player, as a young outfielder in 1959. After years of playing, managing and coaching, he worked his way up to become Atlanta Braves manager, and was given a second Topps card in the 1985 Traded set (the set issued in mid-year to account for trades, rookies who have proven themselves, and managerial changes.) The Braves let him go as manager on August 25, and he never got another Topps card.

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Vic Davalillo, in contrast, had bunches of cards through the 1960s and 1970s. The Venezuelan outfielder kept popping up with the Dodgers as a pinch-hit specialist in the latter half of the ’70s. He only appeared in seven games in 1980, but Fleer gave him a card in 1981 anyway, probably on the assumption that the guy was just never going to go away completely. (They were incorrect.)

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Topps Heritage cards for Medal of Honor winners are a thing, apparently. I am not one of those people who worships all things military … but a trading card of the Hero of Little Round Top, the future Governor of Maine, and the president of Bowdoin College? Yeah, I’ll spend a dime on that.

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The NFL is dead to me and western New York grows dimmer by the day but I still dig this card. Christie, the man who almost made Bills fans forget Scott Norwood, is pictured precisely at the Moment of Creation … he’s not looking at the ball, but his entire body is wrapped up in the effort of kicking.

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Two more football cards, another college memory. Vincent Brisby was a wide receiver on the miserable Patriots teams of the Nineties. He lives in my memory chiefly as a result of his euphonious nickname: Vincent “Ultimate” Brisby.

OK, it’s about time to wrap up already, so I’ll get to the real piece de resistance. Remember how I mentioned 1984 Fleer cards about a half-hour ago?

Well, I was searching for 1984 Fleer products, and I discovered that in 1984, Fleer produced a 66-card set dedicated to the television miniseries V — apparently expecting that V would be a larger cultural event than it turned out to be.

I didn’t see the miniseries, and I had to go to Wikipedia to refresh myself on the plot — something about reptilian space-Nazis who pretend to come in peace.

But when I saw this card on the available list I said hells yes:

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Diana was the female leader of the evil reptilians. Apparently torture was her thing, or part of her thing. And so Fleer produced a card of Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair.

I bought this one sight unseen too. I kinda wondered what might be on it — maybe Diana putting the nipple-pinching clothespins on some poor Earthling? A bit of watered-down sadism aimed at the 11-year-old market?

But, no. It’s a chair. An unoccupied chair! An unoccupied chair surrounded by ominous black rigmarole-props. This is the most fabulously absurd thing that’s ever been printed on a square of cardboard. It’s gotta be up there, anyway. You wanted Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair? Never let it be said that ’84 Fleer didn’t come through for you, Bunky.

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Oh, and here’s Diana her ownself, as played by actress Jane Badler, bringing heavy Grace Slick energy to the role. (“Diana Looks For New Conquests” is almost as great a card title as “Diana’s Favorite Torture Chair.”)

And if you don’t mind cocking your head to read the card back, you can enjoy another great aspect of these cards: The copy seems to have been written by someone who might not have had the slightest bit of familiarity with the show, but who is guessing what to say based on the picture.

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“You just wasted how much of my time with this stupid blog post?”

Saint’s Day.

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I have not stomped for quite a while on the familiar old grounds of the ARSA local radio survey database. Tonight feels like a fine time to go back. And what better theme than surveys issued on St. Patrick’s Day?

WHEC, Rochester, New York, 1958I’m aware that it was common, decades ago, for multiple versions of the same song to run the charts at once. I’ve never thought a lot until now about what that must have sounded like for the listener, and how frustrating it might have been.

On this chart, we have three versions of “River Kwai March/Colonel Bogey” (they’re the same thing, n’est-ce pas?) as well as two of “Seventy-Six Trombones,” all in the top 10. I assume the jocks rotated the different versions — i.e., they picked one to play each hour; they didn’t play all three in close succession.

But what if you actually happened to like one version better than the other two? You’d get stuck hearing the one you wanted only once every three hours, and in the other two hours, you’d get versions that just angered you with their comparative shortcomings. That can’t have been the best of all possible worlds either.

Meanwhile, on WCOP Boston that same week, there’s a little bit of duplication, but also a solid one-two punch at the top that WHEC doesn’t have — “Sweet Little Sixteen” and Jimmy McCracklin’s “The Walk,” the riff from which later turned up in the epic blues chestnut “Hideaway.” They could play Berry and McCracklin as many times an hour as they wanted, if you ask me.

 

WNDR, Syracuse, New York, 1962: How … even … does this chart work? They shoehorn, like, 90 songs into 60 spots. King Curtis and Lawrence Welk rub elbows at the Number 35 spot, somehow. Tico and the Triumphs’ “Motorcycle,” at Number 30, features a voice you might know from elsewhere. And then there’s George Maharis singing “Teach Me Tonight,” which I did not know existed, and … when do the Beatles show up, again?

 

WEEX, Easton, Pennsylvania, 1968The inescapable “Love Is Blue” reminds us that we haven’t quite gotten past that same-hit-by-multiple-artists thing yet. Tico & Garfunkel show up at Number 28. The Who’s bouncy, almost Beach Boys-ish, but relatively minor “Call Me Lightning” is “hitbound,” bass solo and all. And who are those newcomers at 37? Sly and the Family …. Stokes?

 

WEEX, 1972: We approach the end of the days when multiple versions of a song would do battle on the charts. A shame: It would have been a gas to see Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, or Jerry Vale jump into the fray with competing versions of “Roundabout” or “Bang a Gong.”

(Actually, the song on this chart that probably would have inspired multiple versions if this were 1952 instead of 1972 is Apollo 100’s Bach adaptation, “Joy.” Gimmicky but hella delightful. A Hammond goes with anything.)

Which is the greater train wreck here: the segue from “I Gotcha” into “Roundabout,” or from “Jungle Fever” into “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”? And, hey, 100 points to WEEX for wedging McCartney’s insistently hummable protest song onto a St. Patrick’s Day chart.

 

WEEX, 1973: Some stone cold classics on this chart but I stop by mainly to note the presence of “Frankenstein” on the “Album Action” chart, which I assume was reserved for album cuts. The song, of course, became more than just an album cut; it crossed over into mainstream hit-single status and ended up at Number One in May of that year.

WPTR, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York, 1974: An interesting one-two on the album charts. Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, the diary of a witty, wayward professional woman in a love-hate relationship with commitment, is Number One. Carly Simon’s Hotcakes, a paean to domestic bliss that features a radiantly pregnant Simon on its cover and a song about having a baby, is Number Two.

I wonder if these might be two of the most diametrically opposed albums of the Seventies … and whether I might loathe Hotcakes as ardently as I love Court and Spark. There’s only one way to find out, and it is not imminent, though I could get there someday.

 

KYNO, Fresno, California, 1976: Notable mainly for the presence of Bob Dylan’s “Mozambique” on the hitbound list (next to “Shout It Out Loud.”) “Mozambique” did not hassle “The Theme from S.W.A.T.” for airplay.

 

WDRC, Hartford, Connecticut, 1978: Some pure Seventies juice on the hitbound list — “Feels So Good,” “Runnin’ on Empty,” England Dan and John Ford Coley. Wonderful things, hitbound lists, like promises that the river of good music will flow forever.

I also note Skynyrd’s Street Survivors on the LP chart, months after the crash. I still wonder whether the surviving members of Skynyrd — no doubt stuck in traction, depression and physical therapy in the spring of ’78 — saw the posthumous chart life of their album as a form of torture or a ray of light.

 

WRKO Boston, 1978: KISS Alive II and My Aim Is True back-to-back on the album chart? I love living here in Eggheadland. I also note multiple versions of “More Than A Woman” on the New Music list. The ghost of 1958 laughs at me (and a lot of other people), long and loud.

CFGO, Ottawa, 1980: That three-fer of the B-52s, Led Zep, and George Burns … that’s seriously berserk. (XTC into Smokey Robinson would be the biggest train wreck on most charts. Here it’s not even a fender-bender.)

Some solid Canadian content on this chart, too, including a Bruce Cockburn song I’ve never heard but am playing now. It’s maybe a little bloodless, but by 1980 standards, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with it. I’ve featured Cockburn’s “How I Spent My Fall Vacation” from the same album on the blog before; I might just have to shell out for it sometime. (It’s ahead of Hotcakes on my list, I can confirm that.)

 

CFMB, Montreal, 1983: A couple of these left-of-the-dial bands will go on to be very, very big in the States. England’s Fun Boy Three is not one of them — although their version of a familiar song goes to the Top Ten across the pond.

 

A questionable tribute.

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Tonight I made Saquon Barkley Pie … and I beseech the Lord (and my stomach, and Saquon Barkley) to forgive me.

My family are the sorts who make pie for both dinner and dessert on Pi Day (March 14), just because an excuse for pie is always welcome. This year we had firm plans for dessert (I claimed a lemon chiffon pie recipe, which is chilling in the fridge as I type) but no great ideas for dinner.

My younger son, en route to another room, mentioned that the Lehigh Valley celebrated Saquon Barkley Day at around this time of year … so why not a Saquon Barkley Pie?

(Some background for those not familiar: Saquon Barkley is a star running back for the New York Football Giants. He grew up in the next little town over from where we used to live in Pennsylvania. He graduated from the same high school my older son graduated from, and the same school my younger son would have graduated from had I not dragged him off to Boston like James at 15. Barkley’s hometown of Coplay, Pa., held a Saquon Barkley Day in his honor not tremendously long before we moved out. We didn’t go but we could hear it from a distance. It was a shindig and a half. Anyway.)

My son, having dropped the idea of Saquon Barkley Pie on me, decamped elsewhere without sharing any notions of what such a pie might contain.

I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of what Mr. Barkley eats. Being a top-class pro athlete, he probably subsists on protein shakes and grilled salmon.

Instead, I began to picture a pie that would combine classic, familiar eastern Pennsylvania ingredients. Not something Saquon Barkley has necessarily ever eaten (in fact, I kinda hope not), but something all those people who went to Saquon Barkley Day might have eaten when they got home.

And I came up with this:

A variation on shepherd’s pie in which the bottom portion is greasy, melty Pennsylvania-style cheesesteak meat — enlivened with a few chopped green peppers — and the top layer is potato-and-cheese pierogi filling.

It’s OK if you stop reading now…

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Potatoes waiting to do their duty.

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I did not skimp on funky plastic disgusting American cheese slices, which were thrown into the skillet to heat up along with the meat. A full box of frozen cheesesteak meat went into this. Yup.

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The meat, cheese and peppers have been cooked, and now I am spreading the potato mixture across the top of the pie pan.

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The white specks in the pierogi filling are feta cheese; I threw a little bit of every cheese I had in the fridge into the potato mix, for all the flavor I could muster.

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Plated, wit’ salad.

I am pleased to report that the pie, in its own weird disgusting way, was very much a success. The cheesesteak half worked as cheesesteak filling — hot, salty, greasy, ethically questionable. The potato topping was passable pierogi filling — tasty, not too heavy, hinting at additional flavor but not overwhelmed by it.

Most importantly, the two halves were well-proportioned. My younger son, who knew of my grand scheme in advance, said he feared the pie would turn out to be a big pile of mashed potatoes with an occasional strip of cheesesteak. This did not happen; neither main ingredient dominated the other.

So, there you go. Saquon Barkley Pie for Pi Day. I can just about see the streets of Whitehall and Coplay in my mind as I sit back and wait for my dinner to digest.

And wait.

And wait….

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Mmmm, dirty dishes!