"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God such men lived."
George S. Patton


May I say it? I almost get a boner when I listen to You Can Leave Your Hat On, written by Randy Newman and made infamous by Joe Cocker as the background music for the Kim Bassinger striptease in the movie 9 1/2 Weeks.

There is another more recent song that pushes my button, too. And like Cocker, the artist Carrie Rodriguez is no slouch. Raised in Austin, TX and schooled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Carrie strikes me as a gifted writer and musician. She has hit the Alt Country & Americana scene full blast over the last few years.

I found Carrie quite by accident, tooling around iTunes. Once I heard the song 50's French Movie I immediately had to hear the snippets of all of her songs. After listening to (and buying) the 2006 release Seven Angels On A Bicycle and the '08 followup She Ain't Me, I added her into the Lucky Dog favorite musician list; not just because of the sexuality of the song (which is undeniable) but because of the the authenticity of her songs, including 50's FM. Rodriguez's music strikes me as akin to that classic human cross between submissive and dominate. Her lyrics and music trampoline between "I know who I am and I know what I want" and "I'm willing to negotiate." I'm no music critic but that's real, authentic and basic. Not give & take. Give & get. Ain't that right..

Kim's lookin' good in that movie but based on what I hear and see from Carrie Rodriguez, she's got more mental meat on the bone and could give me a boner and make me blush. Give & get.


Guess Who Just Turned 30?!

An ol' pal turned 30 today. Pac-Man. I've spent a lot of time with him, his missus Ms. Pac-Man and all the while always accompanied by another friend, Bud. A few years out of college and still spending a little time at the classic "Tavern" in Chapel Hill, I fell in love with that game. I wouldn't even know of this landmark birthday if I had not Googled something today. The Google Doodle today is a Pac-Man screen that you can actually play (!). Go play.

Once moved to California--in the middle of Silicon Valley to be exact, working in a serious job and thirty, for God's sake--the addiction held strong. There was a neat bar in Palo Alto that had four of those vertical machines. Always busy. There was a sign-up sheet and you had to play against the current winner. Sometimes for the price of a beer, sometimes for the cost of the game, and always for the pride and honor of being a great player.

There were some great players! Human machines that had set routes around the maze, that became enmeshed, like muscle memory, in their brain. They always followed the same route. I've never seen such focus. Remember, virtually every great company in the Valley had/has game rooms for the software writers and
Pac-Man ruled, along with Foosball and air hockey. The Pac-Man game was called "eating corn" by the hard core player. "You wanna eat corn for a beer?", someone might ask.

I was over matched with those Geeks (aka millionaires) and I was extremely pleased when Nolan Bushnell, the Atari founder and Godfather of computer games (Pong) opened a "wholesome" little bar and arcade place (actually quite spacious) called Zaps. There the yups played shuffleboard, pool, every new game available, pinball and of course Pac-Man. This was a childish bar in retrospect, where the salesmen and reps of all the various start-ups would congregate on Friday night with their dates after some hot shot dinner somewhere; it was all very non-competitive. It was hard to be balls out with a happy high chilling you out. I could win there.

Zaps didn't last long. Even Nolan's cache and big bucks couldn't keep it cool. Oh well.

Pac-Man hibernated for a long time within my psyche, once in a while exploding out when a console would be found in some odd spot. And then one Christmas when the boys were young, Santa found a $9.95 Pac-Man game that plugged in to the TV, resplendent with the red ball atop the toggle apparatus. That was the big hit that Christmas and the boys played almost all day. Now, as young men they still on occasion will out of the blue pull out that little mini console, plug it into the television and yell out "Hey, Dad. You wanna eat some corn?"

Happy Birthday, old pal. Let's eat a little corn. Maybe one day we can go 256 boards without losing a life like
Billy Mitchell did back in '99.

Namco has a great site devoted to the game


Baseball Is Back! Part II

Way back in February I posted "Baseball Is Back!" and alluded that my next post would be Part II of my anthem to America's Game and how the sport has been such a wonderful part of my family's life. Well, finally.

Our return to My Town from Silicon Valley in the mid '80s coincided with a resurgence in the popularity of Minor League Baseball all across the nation. In large part fans came back due to the movie Bull Durham, a rollicking baseball and love story centered around the Durham Bulls minor league team. Selling beer at the park (finally) didn't hurt any, either.

Shot in Durham using the team's aging Durham Athletic Park and the city's environs, the movie created a new cache around town for the Bulls and "The DAP." The venerable ballpark certainly became the hot ticket for the 30-something hip locals looking for the next new thing. And the young newbies that were continually moving into the area thanks to the Research Triangle Park and the universities just had to come out, too.

"The DAP" was cool for a hot date or a place to show off your babies. It was a Preppie and a New Age hipster hangout. And the die hard baseball fans, hourly wagers, good ol' country boys--many of whom could play the game as good as any on the field--along with the old timers who had followed the team for years continued to show up like always. Like all of Durham, the ballpark was a social melting pot and everybody got along. Perhaps all was chill because the Preppies and the New Agers tended to congregate in the left field bleachers to drink beer and talk to all the people they came with as a group. And to show off their babies in the cute little Bulls hats.
Die hards only on the right field bleachers. If you went over there don't be yammering about how your MBA courses were messing with your head. Hush up about your start up in the Park. Curb your baby; there's no crying in baseball. And don't complain if the dude in front of you lights up a cig. You just don't complain to certain folks when they break the rules.

Neither group had to contend with the Raleigh interlopers--they bought reserved seats under the cantilevered roof. Until those Raleighites who were Inside The Beltline types figured out they should be out in left field with the party crowd.

The old DAP
BC, (before children) I have fond memories of the left field bleachers, hoisting six or even eight beers up the rickety steps when it was our turn to buy. There was great conversation. And much fun. So great and so fun that we missed a no hitter in progress right before our eyes one Sunday afternoon. But I did watch enough baseball to get the old love back for the game by watching Chipper Jones, Steve Avery, John Rocker, Andrue Jones and many others come through Durham.

AD, (after delivery) we showed off our baby, too. And for both boys, who are three years apart, their first adventures were at "The DAP." They loved it, as did their mother and me. After a while, we moved under the cantilevered roof as we were now a self contained party. The oldest boy and I wore our San Francisco hats. The youngest donned his Pirates hat because his first game while still tethered to mother's milk was Pirates vs. Mudcats in an exhibition game. Barry Bonds played two innings and then signed autographs for a couple more innings.

One of my fondest memories of times at "The DAP" revolve around me and the boys always wearing white bucks to the park when they were little. I would tell them to get their little bucks with the red soles and they would squeal with delight; "It's a baseball day!" they would exclaim. We would always get smiles from other fans because of those bucks. And because of the multi-colored smiles of the boys, thanks to the rainbow ice they always wanted.
1993 at The DAP
I cherish memories of the boys taking turns sitting on my lap during the game. Between sips of beer I would whisper play-by-play into little ears. I'd call the game straight but would use funny and odd names for the visiting team. They loved that, and learned what a "can of corn" is, about the 5-4-3 double play, why sometimes a player would bunt, what tagging up means, the significance of the bases being "full o' Bulls", and taking off their ball caps for the National Anthem. Over time they learned the game's nuances and subtleties. And when they were older, they learned how to make ten bucks last nine innings worth of hot dogs, Cokes and popcorn.
4th visit to see The Chicken
Early on we took the boys and their cousins to see The San Diego Chicken, who back then came to town once a year. It was like Christmas for the children. They were mesmerized by his antics. We bought the dolls, a video, t-shirts--the works. By season's end the boys had memorized all the video antics, had amassed rubber chicken feet, chicken masks and various other costume bits. They would dress up, turn on that tape and act out the whole thing. It was hilarious then and a joy to think about today. Over the years going to "The Chicken game" became a tradition within the tradition of going to the games.

The boys and I enjoyed sending off baseball cards hoping for autographs--and we received some great one. It was always exciting to them when one of our SASEs arrived in the mailbox. They knew not to open till Dad came home, and as soon as I arrived home they would tear into that envelope with great glee. I was as excited as them.

And, of course there was much time spent in the yard, the three of us throwing to each other, although neither boy had the concentration "stamina" to play ball together almost all day like I did as a kid during the summer, mixing grounders, high flies and long toss along with taking turns being the pitcher in make believe games.

When our oldest was six the brand new Durham Bulls Athletic Park (which is called "D-BAP" as its nickname) opened and we continued our pilgrimages to watch baseball, now with good season tickets.

As both boys grew, we watched them play the game in T Ball league, what's left of a little league program, and a year of junior high baseball. One was a right fielder while the other had the toughness, moxie and determination to catch; he loved the armor.

At The DBAP the boys learned to score a baseball game at young ages, thanks to me bribing them with a nickle for a hit, a dime for a double, twenty-five cents for a triple and a buck for a homer while scoring. Amazing how that worked even though they seldom got the money for our mutual forgetfulness. The oldest son is a walking stat machine and can remember more about baseball than I've ever known. His brother is a more casual student of baseball's past, yet the long continuous history of baseball that we all embrace is something he appreciates fully. First year at DBAP
Our family also appreciates the pace of the game. Few do. But their Mom and I have found there can be a lot said between pitches and between innings--about the game and more important topics like how a certain class is going or what's new with the girlfriend and other topics that don't sound so invasive when asked at the game.

Now, suddenly we've had our season tickets at DBAP fifteen years. The boys are growing up. Or, as they would want me to say, they have grown up. The four of us don't make it together to the Bulls as often now, yet the love of the game and the harmonious times together we enjoyed and remember fondly remain as links to one another.

So I was heartened the other day when the boys came in to the kitchen where I was preparing hamburgers to grill and they asked "when are we all going to a Bulls game, Dad?"

Music to my ears. "Take me out to the ballgame..." Oh, if I could whisper play-by-play into little ears just one more time.