An ode to Matt Stairs and his beer belly.

matt stairs artIn case you haven’t noticed lately, some girls are all about that “dad bod”. I hadn’t heard about this body type until my roommate mentioned it. She was attracted to guys she claimed had the beer belly. After observing the guys she found attractive, I came to understand this body type well and was able to identify it. The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink a lot of beer on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.” It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs either.

Matt Stairs was a fan favorite in Oakland and made no apologies for his love for pounding beers and baseballs–the Canadian hit 122 home runs in 5 seasons with the Athletics. A veritable beer keg in motion; Stairs is best known as a pinch hitter, designated hitter, and corner outfielder, but he actually played every position except pitcher, catcher, and shortstop at some point. He also has the most pinch-hit home runs in MLB history.  Edgar Allen Poe could have been speaking of Stairs when he wrote this poem in the late 19th century:

Filled with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away.
What care I how time advances;
I am drinking ale today.

 

A’s spank Giants and win 3 of 4.

A's spank Giants.I see him almost everyday hanging out in front of the taco stand. He is an old man, probably around 70 years old with a funky sort of style. Today he is wearing gold crushed velvet pants and a fluorescent orange cowboy hat. When I first saw him I thought he was homeless, but his wardrobe is much too vast for that to be true. He defies authority and that is a beautiful thing.
“That Oakland ball-club has been kicking the Giants ass,” he said.
I was a little taken aback–I had never spoken to the man besides a “hey” or a slight nod of the head. I suppose he had seen me wearing the green and gold on numerous occasions. Apparently I wasn’t the only person that noticed small details.
“Sure has,” I said and gave him a smile.

Sure, the A’s still have a terrible record of 35-44; but we made the Giants look foolish in a 4 game series and I can take respite in that.

“Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.”–Georges Bernanos

The Oakland A’s and their June swoon.

june swoonI had what can be called a perfect summer evening last night: I watched Star Wars on a 60 foot screen on top of a 6 story building with the stars twinkling brightly above while drinking a wicked batch of sauvignon blanc.

These are the kind of nights that summer is supposed to represent: everyone is dressed casually and comfortably as they enjoyed a night out with friends and family and no cares in the world at that moment. After the movie my acquaintance and I returned to her house for some champagne and a light snack of falafel balls. The great ball of fires close vicinity to the Earth couldn’t ruin this perfect evening and perhaps even enlightened it with its creamy layers of cosmic beauty.

We had small talk for a moment about science fiction novels before “the acquaintance” slides in a DVD of Easy Rider and comments, “Boy, your baseball team sure does stink this year; it must be difficult to find things to write about on that blog of yours.”
“I’m not hypersensitive to it. Perhaps I’ve even given up–which makes me enjoy watching the fiasco all the more. It’s not as if I’m pulling my hair out; there is a sense of calm in losing. Now I know how Cubs fans felt all those years.”
“I find that hard to believe,” she said as she softly tossed her cat off the couch. “Ughh, don’t ever buy anything that eats.”
“Besides, why would I care so deeply about a bunch of millionaires running around in pajamas when I can think about how insignificant my own life is relative to a world that is filled with injustice?”
“I think a lot of the experience of being an adult is: what am I even complaining about?”
“Exactly. So I can be positive and talk about how Danny Valencia and Khris Davis are absolutely raking this season. And Daniel Mengden is a pretty exciting rookie.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Neither do I,” I said as the opening credits to Easy Rider spread across the screen. I really do like Dennis Hopper in this movie I thought.

Reggie Jackson and his place in the cosmos of my mind.

reggie jax2Say what you want about Mr. Jackson and his brash attitude and high strikeout rates, yet without my grandfathers’ fondness for the man I would have never found my love for the game of baseball and the Oakland Athletics.

This page before you would have never existed.

To me Reggie was ALWAYS a legend, and a mystifying one at that since he was retiring just as I was learning to love and appreciate the game. He was a Ruthian figure; and honored by someone who I loved– which made me open my eyes to try to figure out just what made this guy so special.

When my grandfather died I watched from a distance, sadly, as his children argued and bickered over his possessions. I decided then, because of their behavior, that I didn’t need an earthly remembrance of this man who was the biggest father-figure in my life. A couple of months later my grandmother came to me and handed me an autographed Reggie Jackson ball. I knew it well as it had once had the most prominent spot in the case where he kept his baseball memorabilia. It was the gem of the collection.

“I saved this for you,” she said. “grandpa would have wanted you to have it.”

I love when the baseball existentialists come together to sing their anthems of praise about the serene rhythms and mystic qualities of the game. It gives me a warm feeling. And as much as I love and adore the game, sometimes I feel as if these are all illusions because of a time and an innocence that I miss and cherish — and that I’ll never see again.

Summer is here….and the A’s stink.

A's fan depths of hell

Some random hipster representing my own personal hell.

The California summer heat wave is about to begin; and long-time readers of this blog know that in the past I have complained about my own lack of air-conditioning because of the fact that I live in a 1940’s Los Angeles-style bungalow. My living room bakes my brain to the point of running out of curses and heat metaphors. Perspiration drips down my back as I stare at the wall like a lunatic in a daze.
This situation is not incongruous to the happy-go-lucky children that I see on the television–enjoying summer, running around frantically with friends , drinking Kool Aid and tumbling down water slides while staring at girls in bikinis. I drink a dozen ice-cold Coronas (no where near Wade Boggs’ record of 64 beers on one flight) before sleep and intoxication throws me into a dream state of delirium. I dream of a distinguished-looking woman opening her mouth slowly to reveal something white on her tongue.
It’s yogurt.

This Freudian heat wave intermingling with the Oakland A’s current status as basement dwellers has made the beginning of summer seem like Dante’s Inferno; specifically the first circle: limbo.

The team has terrible starting pitching, terrible defense, and with Josh Reddick and Khris Davis sidelined by injuries–a terrible lineup. That is the furthest you can be for a recipe of success. Chris Coghlan was such a stinker that he was traded back to the Cubs. Jesse Hahn couldn’t retire a little leaguer. Yonder Alonso couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Billy Butler smells worse than a shipping crate filled with skunks having a farting contest.

The end of the innocence. (not a Don Henley reference!)

ernie young art

The great Ernie Young

Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music were blossoming into a near obsession as I joined a garage band; and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds–doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out.” As much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.

F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.”
I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading the classics : Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Fante, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that i had flushed 3 years earlier finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun.

This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.

Ben Sheets got me drunk.

 

ben sheets suds artOn January 26, 2010, Ben Sheets agreed to a one year, $10 million with an additional $2 million in incentives, contract with the Oakland Athletics. “Ok,” I thought, “he was hurt last year and this is his comeback.” I knew Ben was injury prone as he had just undergone Tommy John surgery the year before and sat out the entire 2009 season to rehab. It seemed at the time a high risk/reward signing, but I put it out of my mind because of the fact that I had other things to do. You see, it was my day off and I was supposed to meet a nice young lady for some beers and some games of pool at one of those newly opened, posh “gastropubs”. The date goes fine, we drink some nice brews, play some pool and I nod my head at all the crucial moments. Everything is going great until we step out on the back patio to smoke a joint… and then it hits me. Didn’t I see this guy pitch in the minor leagues? 

I can hear the readers screaming, “this guy is having a great time with this woman and he’s thinking about a fucking baseball player!” Well yes, I was, and even worse…I was thinking about the ex-girlfriend that had accompanied me to a baseball game. This is date suicide, I know, but bear with me–all of the thoughts below were fully compartmentalized within two minutes or so. (and it’s not as if it’s an epic, Homer-like story) That’s only about 3-4 head nods and a couple “mmm hmmm’s.”

It’s 1999. I had been wanting to go to a California League game for quite a while. Stockton, Ca. was the closest city to where I was living so it was the logical choice. The Stockton Ports were an (A) team for the Milwaukee Brewers, and I had a little rooting interest for the “Brew Crew;” I thought they were a scrappy, fun bunch. My girlfriend and I hop on the freeway and drive an half an hour south of Sacramento to the murderous, unemployed shit-heap known as Stockton.

Billy Hebert Field was in a sketchy neighborhood in the middle of a park. It was a bit old and had metal bleachers down the third/first base lines. The ballpark had opened in 1953, yet supposedly the land that was/is the field has been used for baseball since the late 19th century, and as legend says, the exact location where the poem “Casey at the bat” had taken place. We grab our beers and peanuts and sit on the third base line. The crowd is sparse, yet I’m enjoying myself.

billy hebert this one

Minor league games tend to have wacky promotions, yet this one was right out of the Bill Veeck hand book. The PA announcer tells the crowd that so and so from the opposing team would be the game’s “beer batter.” This meant that every time the batter in question struck out beer would be half off for 10 minutes. On the mound for the Ports that day was their newly signed “bonus baby,” Ben Sheets. Sheets proceeded to strike out the “beer batter” 4 times; and since there was barely a crowd, I would slowly walk to the concession stand and get a few beers for half off. The first few times were novelty, and then as the innings went by and the suds kicked in it became a sort of a right of passage and celebration of this young man’s talent. I was “three SHEETS to the wind” by the end of the game.

Times have changed. The Ports moved into a new, modern ballpark in 2005, leaving Billy Hebert unattended. They are now an affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Ben Sheets retired in 2012. He couldn’t shake off the injury bug that had hampered his career. I don’t speak to either woman anymore in this story. We had great times, yet that rolling stone keeps on moving. This isn’t a special story….it’s  just another baseball fan’s testament, and a story that will all too soon fade away.

A’s are stinkier than diarrhea so far this season.

A's suck again 1

This is not very far off from my actual reaction last night . I gave up after 3 innings of internal frustration and outward cursing.

In my opinion the writer is to be seen as a psychedelic trip of sorts: a creator of convincing illusions and bringing forth skeptical truths. There are no illusions here, however, only skeptical truths. “Super rookie” Sean Manaea was absolutely ravaged by the Red Sox last night. Mookie Betts led off with a homer and then Hanley Ramirez hit a bomb over the Green Monster among the menagerie of hits. Manaea skulked off the field after giving up 8 runs in 2.2 innings and at this point in his career doesn’t look ML ready. The A’s starting pitching as an undivided assemblage smells worse than diarrhea on a tin roof during a southern heat wave–and now I’m not sure if the team is going to be a summer respite from the dull and anxious day-to-day that most people call their existence as sentient beings.
I can only take solace in the Zen proverb, “Let go or be dragged.” I stop what I am doing , take a deep breath and ask myself, “What, in this moment, am I demanding?” There is still lots of baseball to be played…it’s only May for chrissake. All this is tumbling through my head as I am walking my dog in the largely Asian neighborhood I live in. Men take walks in the morning wearing suits and old ladies do seemingly useless calisthenics in the park. There are lots of windmills akin to a third base coach waving home a runner while walking backwards and synchronated hand claps. These sort of things drive my dog crazy and he barks at the gray-hairs incessantly while chasing squirrels and crows. I enjoy these morning walks, as does he, and he doesn’t let me forget it as he stares and paws at my face at exactly 7:00 each morning until we hit the pavement. What does all this mean? What am I trying to say?
It’s only May for chrissake.

Bartolo Colon breaks record and does time travel.

bartolo artsy“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” –T.S. Eliot

Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon went yard Saturday night becoming the oldest player in ML history to hit his first home run at age 42. This feat was of a particular interest to me as he is one of 4 players in the league that are older than yours truly. (Alex Rodriguez was born the day after.) I also have an affinity for El Bart because of his superb dos seasons in a Oakland uniform including an All Star nod at age 40. These affinities moved to the physical realm as well when Bartolo made us all feel proud that he could be successful on the field despite his “physical limitations” and humorously strange haircuts. I, like many other fans, found it hard to believe that the man could weigh 265 pounds eating a strict Dominican diet of rice, beans and tubers. No, it was decided that Colon was also imbibing on American junk food.

We may all have a more mobile relationship to age than to other perspectives or subject positions … because we are all aging at any one moment. Bartolo’s rookie year with Cleveland was in  1997: I was a young man, 22 years old and living in my first ramshackle apartment with my girlfriend at the time. It was a second story, one bedroom tenement behind a raucous gay bar. Many times I was awoken at the witching hour to make sure that people urinating and fist-fighting in the alley weren’t breaking in to her car. (a black Dodge Challenger!) We worked at a coffee shop and liked to collect records and vintage furniture. We were naive and world-weary at the same time–and here I sit 19 years later with the conviction that life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose…equivalent to a Bartolo Colon home run.

Each life is irreducible to anything other than itself. Which is to say: lives make no sense. Thank you Bartolo for the echoes of the past and congratulations on a record that makes little sense and may never be broken.

The ‘Fro gives the week in review.

A's jonesy

My buddy, Jonesy chillin’ and listening to Prince.

We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ’cause
We’re all gonna die
And when we do
What’s it all for
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door
–Prince “Let’s get crazy”

It was truly a sad day when Prince died last week. In an era of cookie cutter, soul-less music he stood out as a mega-talented musician with magical song writing ability. Like every other human being I saw his death as a chance to reminisce about a moment, long forgotten, in my own life. The memories came rushing through, synapses released, and suddenly I remembered the first time I had seen a Prince video–it was in 1984 and I was nine years old and playing with a few cousins at my grandparents house. All of the sudden “When Doves Cry” came on the television and it was as if the world had stopped and my tiny brain was shattered. I had never seen anyone so ethereal and androgynous. He was calling the world “cold” and criticizing his parents as fallible human beings. I was instantly infatuated and intrigued by this new possibility of undermining expectations. Prince was something different, something refreshing in an era of faux reggae, (The Police) misogynist “cock rock,” and Phil Collins-esque waiting room music. A friend once told me that the movie “Purple Rain” scared the shit out of him when he was a small child. That is pure genius as far as I’m concerned. R.I.P. Purple One.
COGHLANThe A’s sweep of the Yankees last week was beautiful but the moment was a bit sweeter because of the fact that the Bronx Bomber’s telecasters had the pretension to call the Athletics a AAA team. I thought it particularly funny because of the fact that the Yankees lineup isn’t all that impressive and quite a few couldn’t even start over the regular players in Oakland. New Yorkers have been delusional about the Yankees for quite some time and seeing them as contenders this season is a bit laughable in its tedium. They drank the proverbial Kool-Aid.  Most people root for laundry but Yankees fans root for dissipated ghosts. Chris Coghlan hit a two run jack in the 8th inning in game 3 giving the A’s a 6-3 lead and all but insuring an A’s sweep. The cameras then panned to a kid about 8 years old crying in the stands. I am not one to enjoy seeing kids cry but this bratty Millennial (or whatever the hell kids are called these days) was crying because his delusions were being destroyed. Seemed fitting for a Yankees fan…here’s to hoping they have many terrible seasons ahead and the fans keep crying because of their own self-imposed importance.

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