Monday, August 6, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Trey Riley retires from baseball

Athletes retire all the time. We hear about the pros who grab our attention. They get puff piece articles that come long after the days when they used to hustle back on D or run out ground balls. Rarely, if ever, is an athlete mentioned who doesn't have an endorsement deal when they call it a day. This athlete is different, mainly because he is mine and I have a blog.

Trey nervously informed me a couple nights ago about his decision. He thought I would be disappointed. He was right. I've spent the last few days trying to work him over to no avail. He is done.

I'm not disappointed because he's walking away, but rather because he's walking away when he still has so much to offer. Trey really is a baseball player that has all the tools. He can hit for power. He can hit for average. He can field his position. He has a good arm, and . . . man, that kid can run.

Since joining the Rams JV. Things have been a struggle. He had struggled putting all his tools together at the same time. He would have flashes, but it was becoming evident that his heart wasn't really in it. I think he made his decision long ago but didn't want to disappoint.
Trey's first at bat ever for Hiner Dental.

Baseball is a hard game. It looks easy. But to do it well it takes an extraordinary amount of focus. The line between being average and being great is so small, a player has to be absolutely 100% committed. A player cannot go out and contemplate if they really want to do this.

When Trey was little, I was hoping for a football player. I ended up with a baseball player. That was more than fine with me. Baseball is such a beautiful game. It's a team sport that mimics an individual sport. In football and basketball if a player is bigger, stronger, faster more times than not, they'll win the battle. Not so in baseball. It requires such a degree of mental toughness. A player has to be able to handle the immense amount of failure that comes with the game, be able to shake that off quickly, and be ready for the next test. Often in a matter of minutes. Baseball is the sport, to me, that best teaches real life lessons.

There's one game that will stay with me forever. It was Trey's 8th grade year. The Dodds Wildcats were playing in the regional semi-final against Enfield. I'm not saying this because he's my kid but because it's the truth: it was one of the greatest games I've ever seen any middle school kid have. He fielded balls in center, fielded balls in right, fielded balls in left. He was a one man outfield, 10 all totaled. He threw out a runner attempting to tag up at 3rd base from deep center. He was 3 for 4 at the plate. He hit a ball so hard off the school in left field that it one hopped back to the pitcher. If that school wouldn't of been there it may of still been going. To top it all off, he stole home. He really wanted that regional title and went all out to get it. Unfortunately, they lost the next game to Opdyke. Trey never seemed the same about baseball again.
Playing for the JV Rams. He singled, stole
second, and scored on a single with this AB

He continued to play on. There were many more big plays. Many more home runs. As he went forward, I could tell he was falling out of love with the game. His last hit came during his last home at bat in Jr Legion ball. It was a line drive in the gap in left-center. By the time the center fielder got to the ball, Trey was approaching 3rd (did I mention that kid could run). When he saw the 3rd base coach wave him in, he started to smile. The look on his face from 3rd to home wasn't of a kid who didn't love what he was doing at that moment. If that's the last hit, it's fitting that it was an inside the park home run. He's put plenty out, but I always enjoyed watching him run the bases the most.

I didn't want Trey to play sports because I thought he was going to be a St Louis Cardinal. I wanted him to play to learn life lessons. I wanted him to learn the value of hard work. I wanted him to know what it means to honor ones commitment. I wanted him to learn to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. In the end he learned one that most of us learned from Kenny Rogers: know when to fold'em.

I'm disappointed because I'll never see him play again. I'll miss going to the field, just me and him, to hit some pitches. Those are some of my favorite memories . . . well, when he wasn't mad at me and i wasn't wanting to choke him Homer Simpson style! It truly has been a joy. If you see him out, pester him about a farewell tour. If I would of know it was coming, I probably would of appreciated those last few games a little more. However, let me say to my son one last time, well done kid.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Three Celebrity Deaths That Made Me Weepy (None Of Them Were Named Whitney)

One knows they are getting old when their childhood idols begin to depart faster than half priced chicken on food stamp day. Two of these individuals meant much to me as a child. One of them let me know in adulthood that I wasn't a freak, there were others like me. Thankfully none of them were cracked out, has - been pop stars. Unfortunately because they were not, their deaths either went unnoticed or scarcely mentioned. I feel like since they gave so much to me, the least I could do was dedicate a blog to them.

One lucky Monkee.
Davy Jones passed away on February 29th, 2012. His death saddened me greatly. As a kid I used to watch The Monkees everyday after school. Also his guest appearence on The Brady Bunch ranks right up there to the episode where Greg changed his name to Johnny Bravo and the epic three parter set in Hawaii (which has given me an irrational fear of ever possessing a tiki statue). To this day if I had to chose to watch an episode of The Monkees or listen to a Beatles song, I'd chose The Monkees every time. I will stab anyone in the face with a soddering iron who claims that Davy Jones wasn't an influential artist. He had one dance move which was later adopted by Axle Rose. Who now has one dance move. I dont see how one could listen to these songs and claim they're not good (all were top 3 on the Billboard charts): "Last Train to Clarksville", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "I'm a Believer" (their version, not the abomination that was made for the Shrek film), And "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone". Now for the coup de grace for my argument for Davy Jones: "Daydream Believer" is the greatest pop song ever made. This isn't open for discussion. It's settled science. Rest In Peace Mr. Jones.

This is exactly how the show starts.
Watch it! 2AM on FoxNews
The very next day, I was rocked with another death of an admired celebrity that hit me harder than a steel chair shot delivered by hardcore wrestling legend Terry Funk. Andrew Brietbart Left way too soon at the age of 43. Most that know me well, know I love politics. My friend Murph claims that my ability to talk politics will save me during the sure to happen zombie apocalypse. He asserts that whence surrounded by the undead if I'd start spewing my political rants, it would cause the brain munchers to retreat because it's part horrible, part uninteresting, and part inarticulate. Thus ensuring my survival. I've always been political. I find it interesting (even if Murph doesn't). I use to keep a zipped lip about it because of my beliefs. I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I'm a Conservative that flirts with Libertarianism. I use to view Conservatives as stuffy old white guys that ran oil empires. That's not the case. Andrew Breitbart, and Greg Gutfeld, have shown me that there are Conservatives like me. The only cable news programming I watch is Red Eye, Gutfeld's show that Breitbart was a regular guest on and had a hand in bringing to cable news. They drink (I don't), they smoke (I do), they cuss (have you ever listened to Big Kev's View), they're young, they're funny, and they're willing to take Liberals on the way Liberals take us on. I'll never be as articulate, creative, and funny with my beliefs as Breitbart but he was one of the ones that let me know it's alright to have a voice. Go use it. Sorry Murph. Sorry zombies, I will do what must be done. Thank you Andrew.

The picture that started it all.
Last night was the goocher. I was googling Star Wars for news and saw it. Ralph McQuarrie had died. Most outside the realm of Geekdom won't know who he is. To a Star Wars nerd he's probably more important than King George himself. He's the concept artist that's most responsible for bring Star Wars to the big screen. Lucas commissioned him to do a set of designs he could take to 20th Century Fox. The studio saw the art and green lighted the project. Thus beginning my 35 year love/ hate relationship with a movie franchise. More importantly, he inspired me to take up art. I could technically do it, but I could never be an artist. As you all know from reading my blog, I lack imagination. That is the key element in art. It didn't matter. As I look back on my childhood, some of my happiest memories are simple ones. Me alone in my room, record player going, laying in the floor with my supplies trying to recreate McQuarrie's art. Thanks Ralph. He is now one with the force.

I'm certain as the years roll on, more will die. I'll be weepy all over again over Jordan, Montana, Rice, Musial, McGee,  Jagger, Richards, and Frehley. dying is part of life. We all have to cope with loss and face our own demise. That doesn't mean it doesn't suck. It sucks hard. At least I can take comfort in knowing that if those I mourn rise and walk the Earth in search of brains, I have the tools to survive.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Episode III: Play "Higher" At My Funeral

Getting T to this concert has became an obsession greater than Ralphie Parker's quest for a Red Rider BB Gun. The right thing to do would of been to skip the concert and be there for my family, but this is me we're talking about. I'd like to think that if someone asked me to not go, I wouldn't of. Thank goodness my family knew me well. I decided to drive to Indy. Go to the concert. Drive home. 12 hours tops. In case anyone had any doubt, my wife is a saint. Off we went.

8/14/2010 - T and the band.
I will not give James Beeson what he covets, a pic of me and Stapp.
We got there. Went to sound check. T got to meet the band. We saw a concert. We came home. That's the simple explanation of events. I don't want to do a review of a concert. I LOATHE music critics . . . and film critics . . . well any critic really. They operate under the assumption that if something is appealing to the masses, it must be a heap of crap. When is the last time your favorite film won an Oscar? When is the last time your favorite band received a butt load of Grammy's or was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It doesn't happen. The pointy headed elitists want to always remind us their pallet is more refined than ours. / rant.

8/14/2010 - T's guitar heros, ERock and Tremonti.
The seats weren't bad either!
Creed most definitely falls into that category. They've been violated by music critics . . . and music fans  . . . and other bands more frequently than a dainty man in a prison setting (which is why I will forever remain a non - troublemaker). Some of it I can understand. Scott Stapp has brought much of the criticism of the band on all by himself. He's been a major violator of egregious acts of douchebaggery. It got so bad at one point that a class action lawsuit was filed (unsuccessfully) for concert ticket refunds from a show in Chicago because Stapp was too blitzed to perform. He took the stage anyway. He performed laying down. He sang different songs than what the band was playing. Ultimately, Creed gave him the boot and reformed with Miles Kennedy as Alter Bridge. His douchebaggery cost him everything. That was then. Everyone deserves their shot at redemption. What I saw that night from him when I meet him, and while he was on stage, was a man who was humbled and simply happy to be doing what he was doing.

8/14/2010 - Brian and Flip. Did I mention we had good seats?
Some of it is unwarrented. The biggest complaint lobbed at Creed is that Stapp sounds like Eddie Vedder. They're both baritones. That's about it. If you listen to Stapp talk, he sings in his natural voice. (Unlike Scott Weiland of STP who was doing a Vedder impression on their first album) I can't fault a guy for the voice he was born with. Another is that their hits follow a formula. Soft beginning, soaring choruses with mega - distorted guitars, soft and slow through the bridge, and then a big finish. I'm not saying this isn't true. It most definitely is. If you had the winning lottery numbers, would you play different ones? Didn't think so! Every time they followed this formula they shot to the top of the rock charts. This made them enough money to make Gene Simmons blush.

I didn't undertake this series of blogs to convince people of the merits of Creed. They're a divisive band. There's no in between I've seen with them. People either love them or hate them. It's not a little hate either. It's the legless Anakin about to engulfed by the lava type of hate. The haters far out number the fans. That's cool. Dale Earnhardt once said about being disliked and booed, "At least they're making noise. It's when they stop making noise that you know something is wrong." 

This series of blogs are about the ridiculous stuff we do as parents to make memories with our kids. T wanted this. My job was to make it happen. T thinks one day he'll be a rock star. I hope he makes it but he's going to college as a fall back! He told me the other day he's going to play at The Pageant in St Louis. At least he isn't aiming high. We accommodate our kids so they can follow their dreams. We do these things to let them know anything is possible before they become too jaded to believe it. We do these things so one day, long after we are gone, they'll have that one special memory of us. If T's dreams do come true, I know in the moments before he takes that big stage for the first time that night will cross his mind. That to me is worth all the headache, time, and money spent to get him to that show.

You always wonder if the things you do as a parent go noticed, appreciated, or if it meant as much to them as it did to you. When T came in last week, with a little shake in his hand, to show me they were coming back. I knew it did. It got me thinking back to the show. I was looking at some pictures I took that night. I came across the one video I took. It's short but it says it all. Watch the clip and look at the look on that kids face. That's what Rock and Roll is suppose to do, make you feel something. He was happier than I've ever seen him. Because of that, Creed has risen high on my band respect - o - meter. I can honestly say that's one moment in my life where everything was exactly as it should of been. So to all of you that will out live me, when they carry me out make sure they play "Higher". If not, Chucky will be available for kicks after the service.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Episode II: Earl Hickey Lies

Last time we left our heroes (hey, it’s my story I’ll call us what I please) the Creed concert in St Louis had been cancelled, the dog was in hiding, and the quest to take Trey to his first concert was in jeopardy. However, BJ Thomas was coming to the DuQuion State fair, maybe he needs the emotional scarring I suffered there many years ago watching the Oak Ridge Boys. Will fate save Trey from the horror that could befall him?

As we waited to see how things would shake out, the noise from Trey’s room vanished and was replaced with . . . gasp . . . MUSIC. He had read the Mark Tremonti ditched his lessons and felt he needed to do the same. I figured,  ‘There goes retirement plan number 1, I better get him involved in something else to make the old man money’.  Unbeknownst to the old man, he was staying up late learning songs on the Internet and the racket he was creating turned into actual songs! Maybe he'll make me rich after all. That is the point of having kids in the first place, to sponge off them in old age.

As we moved into Christmas, he got the Creed Full Circle DVD. We watched it and felt like we really missed out. Normally, I’d search out the dog but we had come to an understanding; if he would stay in his corner, I’d stay in mine. He would continue to live another day no matter the daily debacles I faced. Plus, Jen had made it perfectly clear that the dog had preferred status over me. Which made me want to seek him out more but our couch is REALLY uncomfortable to sleep on. If you think I’m a hideous beast and you should look away, you should see me after a few days on the couch. Not good at all. I need my beauty sleep. 

Sometime after the New Year, I read an interview with Flip or Brian, maybe both, (I’m old and can barely remember yesterday) and they, or him, (dang you old age!) said they planned on more spring/summer dates. Heck yes! We’re back in business!

The dates were finally released (I say finally because I stalked the crap out of the web waiting for info/ news/ dates) and  . . .WHAT . . . NOTHING CLOSE? Hey dog, stay put ‘cause that couch is doable for a night! DRATS!! Foiled again. Bummer. Trey, being smart and not as unstable as his old man looked again. He came out a few minutes later and mocked my feeble state.

‘You did see they are in Indy on your weekend off in August?’
‘You noticed that tickets are on sale on a day your off?’
‘If I didn’t notice they were in Indy, do you really think I noticed when tickets went on sale?’
‘Probably not, cause your old. You know we can go and stay with Aunt Angie.’
‘Yeah . . . good call grasshopper, you still can’t snatch the stone from my hand though. Whippersnapper.’

Now, all we had to do was knocked dates off the calendar. We can’t get denied again. I watch My Name is Earl, I do good things, so like Carson Daily says good things should happen in return. Karma biotches.

Thursday night, T and I are packing to leave and the phone rings. Our Grandmother had passed away unexpectedly. Really.  Looks like it may not be meant to be. Earl lies.

Tune in next time for the riveting, rambling, incoherent conclusion of our quest to see Creed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Episode I: The Quest To See Creed

Trey came to me last night, iPhone in hand, and said he had something to show me. Creed was coming to The Pageant in St Louis. Wanted to go he did. Wondered he if Take him I would. You see, T and I have a 'history' with that band. Being that I've stumbled upon a serious case of writers block, you're about to be treated to a larger dose of Creed than you probably ever wanted. Hey, I need the material! Last night I sat down and reviewed a blog post I made years ago. I edited, rewrote, and revised. Unfortunately it's long,"In a Gadda Da Vida" long. So, dear readers, you are about to be treated to a three part expose on Creed. I'm sorry . . . try to enjoy it. Don't Judge me!

Several years back, T was all ate up with the Guitar Hero games. For months that is all that boy did. It annoyed me to no end, not because he was wasting his time (he was) but because he was ruining songs I use to love listening to. I swore if I heard "Monkey Wrench" one more time, someone was going to bleed and our dog, Chucky, better hide because I disliked him the most. Just as I was reaching my breaking point fate intervened and Trey asked for a 'real' guitar. Whew, I really did not want to kick the dog.

T on the first night with his first guitar. Christmas Eve 2008
He got his guitar and began to 'play'. Oh how I longed for the days of Guitar Hero. It was the proverbial 'be careful what you wish for, you just may get it’. We took him to an instructor and he did not totally enjoy his lessons but wanted to stick with Wes because he was 'a cool dude'. I loaded up an iPod with some of my favorite guitar songs/ players on it and gave it to him for his birthday. He seemed puzzled as to why I would give him an iPod full of 'old' songs. I told him he would figure it out in time.

One Sunday I was watching my St Louis Rams take another beating while thinking about finding that dog for his long overdue kick, when Trey came in wide - eyed and sat on the couch next to me. My first thought was, 'what did he break?' 

He opened his mouth and said, "I know who the greatest band of all time is".

"Yeah?” I said.

"Yep, Daddio . . . I figured it out, it's Creed."

Figured it out he did. He definitely was the mailman's kid. My initial thought was, 'CRAP, CRAP, CRAP', not because I did not want him to like Creed.  At that point in time, Creed was done, finished, finito. There seemed little hope of reconciliation at that time. You see, I wanted him to find a band and I was hoping  he would pick anyone but Creed. Out of 250 songs he latched onto 2. Sheesh, where is that dog? I only put "What If" and "My Own Prison" on his iPod. Those songs were too good to not be on there.

My plan was for him to find 'his' band and I would take him to see them for his first concert. The first concert is a HUGE deal. My Dad totally blew it. I saw the Oak Ridge Boys when I was in the 5th grade and the scarring from the events of that night haunt me to this day. I informed him of my intent and why Creed may not be the best choice.

"I don't care", he said, "they are too awesome to stay apart".

Oh, the wonders of youth and their fanciful (silly and ill informed) ideas. Sure, Oompa – Lumpas make the chocolate and Creed will get back together. I wanted to believe it for him. I mean, hell froze over and the Eagles got back together. 

Over the next year or so I tried to direct his attention to other bands and he found some he liked. He really dug Alter Bridge (Creed minus Stapp), New Found Glory, and many others. However, he remained adamant Creed was going to be his first show. Poor dog.

One day in early 2009 I was checking out a story on and happened to see rumblings about a possible Creed reunion. Had hell froze over . . . again? Where's Chucky? That dog deserved a treat. I kept this to myself. There was no way I was saying a word until it became official.

Chucky before he aged to annoyance. 
Oh and official it was! They had a date scheduled for a venue in driving distance, on my birthday no less! As I checked ticket sell dates, I discovered I had the day off! What? They’re doing VIP Meet and Greets too. Fate is smiling on us; this is too good to be true. Lucky dog.

As the date grew near, I saw a message in my inbox from Live Nation tagged important info.  Wait . . . WHAT?? “Due to a scheduling conflict the Creed concert at Chaifetz Arena has been canceled." WTF?? Every dog has his day, times up Chucky.

Tune in next time to see how this rambling mess continues and if the dog survives our quest to see Creed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Always Home.

Yesterday I went to see my favorite person on the face of the Earth for Valentine's Day, my Grandma. Unfortunately, she wasn't home so I had some time to kill. Grandma still lives a couple of blocks from where I grew up. I decided to take a walk down and take a look.

I've been there many times since we moved away in 1986 due to my god - forsaken career choice, but it's been a while. It's now vacant and pretty much falling to the ground.

I wanted to go in since the door was kicked open. My parents weren't big picture takers (probably because we were in need of Obama - bucks before Obama - bucks existed) so the memories of the inside reside in my unreliable mind. I thought better of it because I was afraid I'd walk in on some weird hobo sex party . . . some things cannot be unseen.

I decided to just walk around the yard. So many of the great memories of my life took place there because back in the 1970's we actually played outside. There were so many kids to share my childhood with and they were the first thing that came to mind as I looked at their now dilapidated former houses: Jeff, Scott, Angie (my sister), David, Marco, Bumpus, Michelle, Chuck, and Mike. We'd spend from sun up to sun down engaged in tomfoolery (the bottle rocket fights were epic). In my mind it played out like the movie, The Sandlot, but in reality it was more like an episode of Ed, Edd, and Eddie.

Although the area is now run down, I could still look out and see where the magic happened. There was the spot where Jeff blew my thumb apart with a BB gun loaded with rocks. The spot where we hung my sister (she survived). The ditch we used to play in (hey, we were poor). The storm drain we set a fire in to see if the fire department would show (they did). The spot where Scott began to cuss, speak in tongues, and eventually cry when my Mom told him she was going to tell his Dad during the Ash Bomb Incident of 1982 (she did). The field where kids from other neighborhoods would come to challenge us at football (we never lost). I could go on longer than your attention span (I'm sure you get the idea).

As I'm approaching 40, I find myself looking back much more than I use to. That's a good thing. I've recalled things that were long forgotten and I'm appreciative for these kind of moments where I can reflect. It's given me a greater perspective of who I am, how I got here, and the reasons for many of the quirks in my personality.

As I stood there, ready to leave because I was about to get all emotional (not a good thing for a dainty cracker to do in the hood), it struck me how small everything was. Growing up, the yards of the 2200 block of Cherry and Logan were the whole universe. The ditch we could never seem to jump I was able to clear (without a running start) in my advanced elderly state. I guess memories are like the mirrors in a car. We zip by so fast that we don't appreciate the importance of where we are until it's in the rear view mirror, slowly fading away. However, just like it says on the mirror 'objects are closer than they appear', as long as one isn't too jaded to find value in the memories.

Some places made us happy. Some places . . . not so much. Those places made us who we are. This one place will always be simply . . . home.

Monday, February 13, 2012

5 Days of Writer's Block Cured By . . . Star Wars.

I remember the night of May 18, 1999, well. I put my then 3 year old son to bed. I kissed my wife goodnight, received the look of shame I always get when I engage in geekery, and off I went.

I arrived at Kerasotes Show Place 8 a touch before 11. I marveled at my fellow geeks in costumes, lightsaber fighting in the parking lot, and arguing in raspy, wheezing voices over obscure Star Wars trivia. I was home. These were my people. I was right where I belonged.

 I entered the theater. No snacks. No drinks. I wasn't about to risk an unscheduled bathroom break during the biggest movie night of my life. The lights went dark. People cheered when the Lucasfilm Ltd logo appeared. The movies that all geekdom pressed their Cheetos stained fingers together and prayed for were FINALLY here after a 15 year wait.

 Then something happened that none of us geeks could of imagined: the movie sucked, sucked hard. Midichlorins? Really? Vader built 3PO? Seriously? Jar Jar Binks? Does George Lucas hate us? There was a mix of stunned silence and palpable anger in the parking lot. How in the fudge could the movie stink more than a hat full of hammered assholes? I still to this day break my life into 2 parts: before TPM and after TPM. My geeky heart had been blasted into bits like a protocol droid wandering around Cloud City.

 I watched The Phantom Menace one more time over the past 13 years. I had the same reaction, that was much like Ralphie Parker's when he found out his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring was a commercial gimmick in A Christmas Story, I'd been bamboozled, hoodwinked . . . sonuvabitch.

I loathe Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the Harry Potter franchise. Twilight can simple suck it. Regardless of my feelings for these movie franchises (not sagas, there is ONLY 1 SAGA) it honked me off that they were reigning supreme in box office receipts over the Star Wars Saga. For that reason alone I journeyed to the former Kerasotes theater, now AMC, to watch The Phantom Menace one last time in 3D this past Sunday.

 I brought fellow geeks with me, Dan and Jamie. Dan brought his kids. I figured if I was going to suffer through, I was at least going to have fun doing it. I sat by Dan's daughter, Amaya, and that was key to my experience. For every cringe inducing moment, I could hear a chuckle out of her. First, I had to be sure I wasn't vocalizing or pantomiming my disgust to make her giggle. I wasn't.

 So, I settled in, watched the movie and watched her watch the movie (not in creepy pedder way). What I discovered was, TPM was a pretty descent kid flick. It wasn't as horrible as I remembered.

 Star Wars was meant to be a fantasy movie. As us geeks grew from geeklings into full blown dungeon masters, we expected Star Wars to grow with us. Into what I don't know. Maybe Reservoir Dogs in a galaxy far, far away? I had to unlearn what I had learned. I had to watch the movie through the eyes I use to watch it with. Once I watched Amaya for a bit, I began to SEE the movie. I even ALMOST laughed at Jar Jar once.

 Don't get me wrong TPM isn't a great movie. There are problems with the acting, continuity, and pacing. Once I could stop dwelling in reality and enjoy the fantasy, it was tolerable. I'd put it 4th out of the 6 Star Wars movies. Even my fellow geeks that went along said it wasn't as horrid as they remembered. In fact, it was pretty wizard. *cringe*