31 December 2007

Killer Bait

Xmas brought us the perfect gift from pals R & J: a dvd called "Classic Film Noir." It contains 9 movies from 1946-1953 lumped in to the noir genre. We watched the first one last night, Too Late for Tears (aka Killer Bait), which featured the magnetic Lizabeth Scott and the insinuating Dan Duryea. Ms. Scott has to be one of the fatal-est of all the femmes in movie history. She plots and schemes and delivers her oh-so-sincere sultry pablum to one chump after another, picking them off like target practice. Mr. Duryea is her particular bulls-eye, and his degradation almost makes you pity him even though he's just another weasel chasing ill-gotten bucks. Great performances by pros at the top of their games. According to the wikipedia entry, Lizabeth Scott is still alive (85 this year). Like Marie Windsor and others, Scott was ultimately typecast as the arch-villainess. That's dandy for all of us noir fans, as she was clearly a perfect fit, but one wonders if she missed a chance to strut her acting chops in other roles. Researching for this post, I came across another blog, Noir of the Week, where Too Late for Tears was reviewed in great depth earlier this month. Silver Screen Sirens has quite a gallery of photos. Check out this one of Liz and Dan:

30 December 2007


Matt Cadd hated New Year's Eve parties: too many wannabes who couldn't hold their liquor. Razamoff's reward money was in the bank, so he cut a bonus check for Honey and put it on her silent keyboard. She was out--celebrating. He was in--drinking alone.

"Happy New Year, doll."

I'll take mine in fifties.

27 December 2007

Gimme a double!

You couldn't come up with a better A Tale of Two Whiskies than the two we are working on tonight. We started with the venerable Jim Beam RYE. Rye whiskey is making a comeback these days, but I doubt if the connoisseurs are going after the Big Yellow. <-- Check that out. That is a seriously UGLY package. That's too bad because it is a damn fine whiskey. Very light and smooth, but with a crisp spiciness and a clean, floral aroma, Jim Beam Straight Rye Whiskey is too damn easy to drink. The homepage only includes info about the BOURBON, not the "Yellow-Label" RYE. Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace, has some notes about it at Whisky Magazine. Otherwise, I think this stuff is an undiscovered gem. I guess you just can't judge a book by its cover! If you could, you'd fall in love with Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon without ever touching the stuff. They put the whiskey in a cool bottle (in a felt drawstring bag) with a racehorse stopper! It is just adorable. More important than that of course, is the taste. And this stuff tastes GREAT. Completely different from the Jim Beam Rye, Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon is a thick, chewy whiskey, with a heavy caramel/vanilla vibe, and a big finish. One thing I love about the holidaze is the chance to really dig in to some goodies. No goddamn work tomorrow! Check out that collection of Blanton's bottles. Cool, huh? Our special treat (from good pals J & R) is dated 8-4-07 (our 23rd anniversary!), from barrel no. 164, warehouse 4, rick no. 28, and bottle no. 80! I'm just nutty for numbers. For the record, it is 93 proof, while the rye checks in at only 80. Cheers!

25 December 2007

The Holidaze

On Friday I finished work. Andrei and Kim stayed the night on their way south and we had a major festival. JM came by as well for BBQ steak and California vino! On Saturday we were part of a special Miner Street Pub Event--Scott and Brad had birthdays! Sunday, I wrote "Lonnie's Mom." It is 2,700 no-holds-barred hard-boiled words and I'm sending it to Out of the Gutter for inclusion in issue 4. Wish me luck! Monday was relaxed: some brewing chores and a social call to Cathy & Nancy's for Xmas Eve. Today, I brewed a batch. Man, I love vacation. It is the kind of thing that can make a believer out of an atheist! Speaking of atheists, Happy Xmas, God damn it! Joyous Kwanzaa. Merry Solstice. Kick-ass Chanukah. Rockin' fookin' Ramadan (I think I missed that one by a few months). And to all you RATS out there, are you ready for Chinese New Year? Or any New Year for that matter? I'm a PIG, meself, though I like to think of it as "boar." Regardless, Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo arís! (May we all be alive this time next year!) It sounds out something like "guh MARE-uh mwij BYE-oh, ahm sho AH-REESH." Now that's a toast, eh?

23 December 2007


It wasn't too hard to track down the thief of Razamoff's Fabergé. Good help is hard to find. Matt Cadd took the egg to the museum.

"Hate to tell you this, but it's a phony." Dr. Slade, curator, was an old contact.

"We'll just let the Russian think otherwise, OK?"

Only fifty of 'em in the world, tovarich, what'd ya think?

21 December 2007


The Hard Case books are stacking up like 747s at SFO. I got off the beam for a few weeks and I have been scrambling to catch up on my backlog. The latest one I tackled was Branded Woman by "Wade Miller." This one is HCC-011 from July of 2005 and concerns a femme fatale jewel thief on a vengeance crusade in the Mexican Riviera. It has a fast pace, and lots of intrigue, mystery and violence. What could be bad? Actually, it is a fun read, but not high up on the literary scale. Guys like Block, Goodis and Westlake can really turn a phrase and cut down on the damn adverbs at the same time. So I tagged this one a "potboiler." The author, Wade Miller, is a pseudonym of a writing pair, Robert Wade and Bill Miller. How two guys could work together so closely for such a long time and have such a prodigious output is beyond me. I would drive any writing partner of mine to drink, and I've no doubt he'd do the same for me. Nonetheless, these guys have an impressive and enviable legacy in the mystery/crime/noir universe. Like most of the Hard Case selections, this book makes you want to read more of the same. I wonder if this story was ever filmed--it seems like Branded Woman would make a hell of a flick.

16 December 2007


Razamov's holiday bacchanal was famed as the place to be. Honey worked an invite for her and the boss. A reveler made off with a Fabergé jewelry box. The word got out: is there a detective in the house? Matt Cadd went to work.

"Christmas bonus this year, eh doll?"

Give the Santa his fifty and tell him to scram.

13 December 2007



I'm the "featured" flash story for the next few days--top o' the list!

Check it out: I called it Old School.

The Ides of Baseball

I'm not going to read the Mitchell Report and look forward to it like I would a colonoscopy. The Mitchell Report is not about baseball, and it is not about "performance-enhancing durgs" (whatever they are). It is about a nation obsessed with non-issues, it is about politics and posturing, and it is about punishing rich, famous athletes for their failure to be our heroes. In other words, it is about us. Athletes are not heroes. They are athletes. Some of them may be heroic individuals, much like housewives or teachers or carpenters might be heroes. Just because some person gets a lot of money for entertaining us does not mean that we can 1) take away their rights, privacy or dignity and 2) hold them to a higher standard of conduct than anyone else. Baseball is a business, a six billion dollar business. Young men put their bodies on the line for fame, glory, and yes, money. Flesh--the bodies of athletes--is the currency of professional sports. Young men trade this currency--theirs, their very own flesh--for money. Specifically, a shot, a chance, at a big payoff. The real crime is NOT that the cut-throat competition for the very few spots on a big-league roster encourages the use of chemical supplements, the real crime is that many thousands of youngsters fail to make the pros, and no one gives a shit that many of them sacrificed their bodies, their schooling, and their youth on a broken dream. Professional athletes are just that: professional. They don't have to be told how to run their professional lives. If they can take HGH to help them recover from an injury and give their employers and fans what is expected of them, then what is the problem? If we really care, I mean REALLY CARE about an athlete's health, then why don't we set up a panel of experts? Scientists, doctors, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, psychologists and the like could make recommendations to the sports world on the proper care and feeding of an athletic body (and mind). What drugs can be used safely and in what doses, what kinds of expectations about injury and recovery are realistic, and, most important, what does it take to be healthy upon retirement. Take a look at middle-aged football players: too many of them are basket cases who can barely walk and talk. Do fans and owners care? Hardly. The national hysteria about steroids is a lot of nonsense. Code words like "the integrity of the game" are thrown around by media types and politicos who happily consume a packaged product that hides all its true warts, and fans suck on the same stupid crack pipe of ignorance, pretending that their "heroes" are pure and beautiful because they can't or won't find real heroes in their lives. If anyone thinks that drug testing will "clean up" sports and "restore the game," I've got some Enron stock you might want to invest in.

09 December 2007


April Day was a schoolteacher. She invited Matt Cadd to speak at Career Day. He told them all about being a private detective. It was nothing like TV, of course. They asked him a lot of questions: third grade stuff.

One, in particular, stuck with him.

"Is it fun, mister?"

50 stars on the flag, boys and girls.

08 December 2007


24Seven is a comic--er, graphic novel--from Image. I just finished volume 1, Volume 2 awaits on the shelf. It is a collection of short pieces, vignettes I suppose, in a dark, urban future entirely inhabited by robots. The anthology brings together about fifty creators, writers and artists with impressively diverse styles and stories. The brains behind the outfit call themselves NYC Mech, and that sums up the vibe. Comics are a funny thing, you can have cool art and a weak story, or a good piece with lousy pictures. But when the two work harmoniously together, you get potent, unforgettable stuff. The anthology has both, good and bad, but it is consistently engaging and interesting. They call it "sci-fi/noir" on the back cover, and much of the stuff has a noir outlook. The not-too-far-off mechanistic Manhattan is an easy premise to swallow, and the cybernetic citizens all-too-human. I've a lot to learn about comics, but I can tell there are writers out there, like Ivan Brandon, who need a look.

02 December 2007


A trip to the zoo left April Day streaked with tears. At the bus stop on the way home she gave a drunken bum her last fiver.

"Johnny always gave them money," she said, "he said 'caged animals were treated better.' "

Matt Cadd watched the panhandler shuffle away. And cried.

Because he has no death to die. (Lao-Tzu's 50th)

29 November 2007

MARCVS CRAPVLARIVS: the tranquil glen

The new spirit here at Roma Aeterna is called Glenmorangie, and I had to flog most of the staff to find out how to say it properly in the barbarian tongue. (It rhymes with "orangey.") It means "the valley of tranquility" and is--I'm told--hand-crafted by "The Sixteen Men of Tain." Now I'm sure these Caledonian fellows are clever and all, but it seems impossible that it only takes 16. I probably have 16 working in the stables alone, not to mention the orchards, vineyards, granary, and household. (I can never keep track--they keep dying off and being born, and some I ship away--that is why I have a staff.) Regardless, these whisky-men got the terribly original notion to age the stuff in wine barrels. Imagine! The Iberian Gauls make madeira out on the Purple Islands, and somehow the used barrels find their way north. (They must have good help.) The whisky, naturally, is a rough and uncultured brew, but the madeira "finish" has a, naturally, civilizing influence. The result is a dangeroulsy quaffable drink! The bottle is almost empty this morning! I must say, even I would never have thought of using wine to improve whisky, but what a breakthrough. Rumor has it that burgundy barrels are used as well. No wonder I can't get any decent Gallic wines.

a.d. III Kal. Dec.

25 November 2007


April Day was Johnny's girlfriend. When she disappeared, Matt Cadd tracked her down.

"I ran. I thought he'd been killed. He knew some bad men. Now I know it was just rotten luck." She sobbed.

"Take it easy, kid." He held her. "You're my family now, OK? And no crying."

And, after 50 days, the spirit moved them.

24 November 2007


This is my 150th post! And I'm even more excited about the arrival of Out of the Gutter 3.

18 November 2007


Johnny had a closed casket--victim of a hit-and-run. Matt Cadd found his little brother's killer: a decrepit drunk with a stolen car.

"You took my only family. I have nothing, now."

"Yeah? Tough. Join the club."

The avenging blade went deep, and the taste of steel brought the end.

After 50 days, the law came down.

16 November 2007

And we're in bed with these bastards?

Check out this NY Times story (which was carried by other newspapers including the Sacramento Bee today):


These clowns are our ALLIES. They FLOG people. They flog the VICTIMS of rape. The VICTIMS!! These Islamic "leaders" and "clerics" are PHONIES. Corrupt, stupid LOSERS. Flogging the VICTIM of a RAPE? Are you kidding me?

I wonder if GW, when he's hangin' with his buddy "Prince" Bandar al-Saud, asks him, "yo, Bandy, how's that floggin' thing work? Does it keep the damn liberals off yer back?"

Why aren't we bombing the damn House of Saud into the Stone Age where they belong?

14 November 2007

Dear everyone,

I have so many "thank-yous" to my friends and family for all the lovely gifts, cards, calls, notes, thoughts and *other* extra-ordinary efforts made on behalf of my XLVIIIth birthday that I hardly know where to start. It has to be the best birthday ever! THANKS TO ALL OF YOU! I'm overhwhelmed by your love and affection. I'm rich--rich with the best thing in life: wonderful friends.

Love always,


a.d. XVIII Kal. Dec.

13 November 2007


Diem natalem felicem mihi!

Yes, friends, it is my birthday: Happy Birthday to Me!

Here at Roma Aeterna on the Ides of November, the gods have been good to us. An exotic new spirit has come in to my hands, not the work of my household (the miserable wretches), but a gift from visiting friends. Once again those clever barbarians from across the Mare Atlanticum have concocted a new drink, this one in "imitation" of the Caledonians! Imagine that--a tribe of woodsy roughnecks copying the practices of those bog-dwellers! And speaking of bogs, this spirit, called McCarthy's, is flavored with the very bogs of the Caledonian homeland. Yes, this "whiskey" (so-called in their savage tongue), has a "peaty" flavor, something like burning tar or pitch. Vile to imagine, I know, but wondrous on the tongue. Smooth and full with this dazzling smokiness, I can't get enough of McCarthy's. It is from someplace called "Oregon," filled with foreigners, not even provincials, and I shudder to think what life there is like. I shall set the servants to work making offerings to Juno to thank her for our abundance. And if they do a poor job of it, I'll sacrifice one of them! Beware the Ides, indeed.

Id. Nov.

12 November 2007

pridie Idus Novembris

Beware the Ides, my friends! Indeed, it is my birthday tomorrow, on the Ides of November. I will have XLVIII candles on the cake. Speaking of numbers, how many plots are there? According to Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead, there are 8 ("The Eightest Stories Ever Told!!"). That strip is from 28 Feb 93, and I have it on my wall. Georges Polti says there are 36 (The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations). He wrote that in 1917. I found a 1973 reprint in a library book sale for a dollar. (Some folks on the net updated it to 37 plots here.) Finally, there is a website called Hatch's Plot Bank, which is at 2,382 and counting. The outfit is called TCR Press, and seems to be the creation of a writer named Laurence C. Hatch. I'll have to dive in and try a few some time. So, how about the answer to my question--how many plots? Well, I reckon some fellers are lumpers and some fellers are splitters. Which one are you?

prid. Id. Nov.

11 November 2007


It was Matt Cadd's birthday and he'd ordered a new suit. But the jacket didn't fit, his haberdasher was crestfallen, and his tailor was closed.

Back home, trenchcoat on a hanger, fedora on a shelf, he smoked, drank, and brooded to Sinatra.

"I like it 'My Way,' too, Frankie boy."

50 Long--right off the rack

04 November 2007


Raven's belly dance revue opened to rave reviews. But her ex, Mr. Cairo, made threats. So she hired a bodyguard--Matt Cadd.

"Relax, doll, the only belly he'll see will be his own--when I cut it open."

She protested: "He's a gangster!"

"You shimmy," he replied, "and I'll shank."

Quoth the Raven: "50 more."

29 October 2007

This one's by me

Check out http://thisisby.us/ and look for the "genres" tab, pull down and select "fiction." My mini-fable, Avram and Sera, is posted there. This site rates stuff based on user feedback. I'm not sure how it works, but I figure I'll find out shortly. (The little photo next to my name is H.P. Lovecraft.)

28 October 2007


It was Hallowe'en. Candi was walking the streets. Matt Cadd found her on the strip working the costumed hordes. He gifted her a couple of Grants. They disappeared in the folds of her mini-skirt.

"What, no 'thanks' for your old pal, doll?"

"It's not my heart that's gold," she said.

Fifty don't get you much, mister.

27 October 2007

Virtual M.C.

I've done it now. I've joined a book group of sorts at Barnes & Noble (bn.com) on crime fiction. I got a fancy invite in my Hard Case Crime monthly shipment. So, look for Mark_OC if you drop in. And I found an interesting writing spot called thisisby.us which says: write for the world. get paid. I'm M.C. O'Connor there. I feel like Sybil--dissociative identity disorder (called multiple personality disorder in the book). I write this blog. I write another blog about the Giants. I comment at two other Giants blogs. I write a homebrewing blog. I'm living in the public nets (that's a phrase from Greg Bear's Moving Mars) like an insect ensnared in a spiderweb, tendrils of cybersilk wrapping themselves around me limb by limb. I try to keep the 'real' physical me attached to the earth by writing by hand in my daily log. I use cheap bics and dollar-store compostion books. I think it helps.

21 October 2007

MATT CADD, PRIVATE EYE: Lights . . . Camera

When wealthy husbands cheated on their wives, Matt Cadd saw his cash flow improve. He fiddled with the telephoto lens and watched the bedroom window. Any moment, the lamp would come on and he would have his shot.

Smile, you dumb bastard, he thought, it might be your last.

. . . Action.


15 October 2007

The Allegheny Address

Ten score and 13 years ago, our fathers brought forth a new notion, conceived in a distillery, and dedicated to the proposition that all men deserve a good drink.

Tax free.

1794 is given as the "date" of The Whiskey Rebellion, which actually took place over several years. Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania was a hotbed of sedition, but the hatred of an internal excise tax was as American as apple pie in those days, and folks all over, not just the rural west, opposed the federal effort. Big Daddy George and his buddy Alex had to pay the War debts, and taxing the hillbilly whiskey-men was as good a source of revenue as any other. After all, drinking is sin, and these blue-blood Virginia aristocrats just couldn't abide the notion that free folks could make all they wanted and barter with it up and down the rivers of commerce the young nation enjoyed. (Never mind that Washington was a brewer and a distiller.) Maybe Aaron Burr shot Hamilton because they never sat down and had a drink together. Real men can settle their differences over a few jars, eh?

14 October 2007


There were no tickets for the playoff game so Matt Cadd charmed the bleacher usherette and she let him in.

"Give me a call sometime, slugger," she said.

"Sure, doll," he said, patting her ass.

She smiled, replied in kind, and lifted his wallet.

I bet you will, she thought.

section 50: Standing Room Only

13 October 2007

The Blakes

William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" forms the thematic motif of Richard Aleas' newest Hard Case Crime novel, Songs of Innocence. Richard Aleas is the anagrammatic pen name (alias, get it?) of Charles Ardai, an accomplished entrepeneur, writer and publisher (Hard Case is his creation). His novel Little Girl Lost (HCC-004) won a Shamus Award in 2005. Songs of Innocence (HCC-033) has the same protagonist, New York City P.I. John Blake, and explores the same netherworld of the sex industry. Novel one was strippers and strip clubs, novel two is hookers and massage parlors. Aleas does a brilliant job of updating the P.I. for the 21st century. Our boy John is a scholarly type, boyish and slight of build. He uses cell phones, e-mail and the Internet. He's no Mike Hammer, but his bull-headedness and moral outrage winds up pitting him against all sorts of hoods, hitmen, gangsters and other tough guys. Little Girl Lost was prologue, and without giving away too much, Songs of Innocence is epilogue. My lovely bride and I like to read books out loud together (the Hard Case books are great for this), and we tackled both of young Mr. Blake's adventures this way. Little Girl Lost was a straightforward missing person/mistaken identity tale. Brisk and suspenseful, we identified with our hero's quest, and forgave him his foibles. "A Little Girl Lost" is actually the title of one of William Blake's "Innocence" poems. Much of the P.I. genre deals with the struggle to maintain hope and integrity (innocence) in a corrupt and tawdry world (experience), and LGL is no exception, as John Blake has to learn hard realities about his youthful dreams. Songs of Innocence is a far darker tale, and is set a few years later, and John Blake is now an ex-P.I., getting out of the business before it destroyed him. Bad things happen, though, and he finds his way back in. Unfortunately his bloody quest for truth and understanding almost bordered on parody. Our hero would stick his head in the guillotine, almost get it chopped off, and then do it again. And again. Everyone told him to look out, the blade would soon fall, but he would push on doggedly. I appreciate a good story of obsession, or even madness (think Jim Thompson), but Songs of Innoncence was almost tiresome. That's unfortunate, because I like Mr. Aleas' writing, and I've blogged quite a bit about my enthusiasm for Hard Case. Suffice to say we had looked forward to spending time with a new and improved John Blake after his fine debut in LGL, and were a bit disappointed by the new version we got in SOI. Funny how the more hard-boiled story was less appealing! Nonetheless, Aleas is a strong writer and I look forward to more from him.

07 October 2007


The library assistant had stolen the rarest book in the city's collection. Matt Cadd found her at the airport, the tome in her carry-on.

"A man in Malaysia will give me half a million for this," she said.

"That ought to take care of the overdue fines, doll," he said.

Book 'em, Five-O.

06 October 2007

Noir score

This week I got my hands on The Executioners by John D. MacDonald. This is pre-Travis McGee stuff from the late fifties. and later became the movie Cape Fear with Robert Mitchum (re-made more recently with Robert DeNiro). My copy is a neat little hardcover book club edition with a slightly worn dust jacket. A great find (and I'm not telling)! At the local library book sale this morning, I found another interesting book, Ed McBain's 1997 effort Goldilocks. It is not one of his 87th Precinct tales. It, too, is a book club hardcover with a worn jacket. Finally, this afternoon, the new (#2) MURDALAND arrived in the mail. That is a noir score, to be sure. Tune in later for reviews.

04 October 2007

The Space Race

Today is the 50th anniversary of SPUTNIK. I want to thank the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for launching that tiny satellite a few years before I was born. Here's why: Sputnik caused a panic in the U.S.A. and one of the consequences of this panic was the reform science education. My high school years (1973-1977) were post-Sputnik reform years. That is, the curricula and methods were a direct result of the demand for more rigor and theory in science education, and an expectation that students would DO science. That experience was a godsend for me. I LOVED science in high school. It shaped my life--I became a science teacher. The second consequence of Sputnik was The Space Race. When I was 9, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I watched the Apollo flights religiously. The awe and wonder that that event inspired in that little boy changed him forever. I have never stopped looking to the stars. The movie 2001: A Space Odyssey came out the previous year. I watched it when I was boy, and it blew my little mind. The enigma captivated me, and to this day I read and watch SF. (And I have never stopped being amazed and bewildered by Kubrick's transcendent film.)

02 October 2007

Roll On, You Bears!

I have to crow a little bit--my California Golden Bears beat the University of Oregon Ducks this past Saturday in a thrilling game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Here in northern Siskiyou County, despite the presence of many Cal alumni, the hoi polloi identify with Oregon. The State of California is just a little too weird for this earthy cowboy community, and folks seem to feel Oregon is closer in spirit. In fact, Oregon is just a few dozen miles away. The funny thing is that the nearest Oregon town--Ashland--is so damned California in style, outlook, politics and general vibe! Ashland is a clean, upscale, mountain version of Berkeley. No matter. Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, these are Oregon cities with the working class spirit Siskiyouans seem to like. Oregon State University's Beavers don't generate the enthusiam the Ducks do, even though Corvallis would be a more appealing town for most of my neighbors than Eugene. Well, the Ducks have a great team, and wins bring fans. OSU's Beavers have won back-to-back College World Series baseball titles, but the Ducks shine on the gridiron. Cal won a marvelous contest that could have gone either way. A fumble by a young Duck with seconds to go sealed a 31-24 win for the Bears. I'd screamed myself hoarse by then, and the wait for the officials to "review" the call was pure agony. Can we please get rid of TV replays? Call the damn game and move on. Of course mistakes will happen. Get over it, they are part of the game. The Bears have a long difficult season ahead, with UCLA and USC showdowns looming. But I get bragging rights here at home for a few weeks, and no matter what else happens, I'm taking advantage of that!

30 September 2007


It was all over with Honey and Matt Cadd. He'd called it quits. He poured himself whiskey from the fifth in his desk drawer. Maybe she'll come back to work for me now, he thought. He smiled, picturing her porn star looks.

"Bottoms up," he said, and drank it down.

Two-fifty: 11oo10

26 September 2007

Bookseller for the rest of us

After being educated in Berkeley, a town that knows bookstores, no place else compares. Powell's helps with the book jones, but even they don't always have the good stuff. You have to haunt places like Mark V. Ziesing, Bookseller, who operates out of the Shasta County burg of Shingletown. Drop in and buy some books. I've gotten most of my John Shirley here. Isn't that enough to get YOU to shop there? It should be. Support your local, rebellious, independent, free-thinking neighbors, dammit!

25 September 2007

Ch-ch-ch-changes . . .

Exciting news here at TPP: a new blog. As if I haven't enough to do, I am creating a new blog. Blogger unfortunately makes this too easy, and I think this will help me focus my writing tasks. You already know about French Street Brewery, which is a specialized, narrow-focus sort of thing. Now I am adding Raising Matt Cain, which will obviously be a Giants blog. TPP will return to its original purpose, a writer's blog. I think the channeling of my efforts in to these categories will help me stay on task. Either that or I just like fiddling with Blogger. This site will get "cleaned up" over the next few weeks, more streamlined, less cluttered. Look for the first RMC posting tonight, when Matt gets his final start of the year.

23 September 2007


He lived on the streets: eating from dumpsters, sleeping in boxes.

Matt Cadd felt autumn's chill in his bones. "My place is warm," Matt told him. "There's food. A shower. Change of clothes."

"No dice," he said. "No debts, my old friend, right?" The night closed in. He was gone.

Brother, can you spare a fifty?

22 September 2007

Bye-Bye Barry

After 15 years, the Giants are cutting ties with Barry Lamar Bonds, the Greatest Player of All Time. Barry is 4 years younger than me-- I watched his Dad play when I was a boy. I have followed his entire career. I remember when he was signed out of high school and went to ASU instead of into the Giants farm system. I remember, as Peter Magowan recalled, the first homerun he hit at Candlestick, in his first home game as a Giant. I will never forget his exceptional play in the 2002 post-season, powering the Giants to the brink of a championship. Bonds was the distilled essence of pure baseball drama: his every plate appearance was filled with tension and mounting excitement. When Barry hit, you stopped and watched, or listened. No one ever captivated a baseball audience like Bonds. His magnificent technique, coupled with his devotion to the craft of hitting, made him The One to Watch. Opposing managers--all of them, from Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa to Bob Melvin and Mike Sciosia--went to ridiculous lengths to neutralize his impact on the game. Opposing fans booed him, then booed their managers for walking him. No ballplayer has ever been so scrutinized in the history of the game, yet continued to perform at such a high level. Much has been made of his alleged use of PEDs, all of it virtually irrelevant gossip-column stuff. Bonds is a modern athlete, in a modern multi-billion dollar entertainment business, whatever he did or did not do to stay healthy and productive is his business. The talk of asterisks and "tainted" records is a lot of silly moralistic posturing by pundits unable to deal with Bonds' hauteur. Bonds, in short, is a snob. He disdains those in the media because they aren't ballplayers. He has more respect for a 21-year old rookie clinging to life in the Bigs than a 30-year veteran of Sports Illustrated. Y'know something? Deal with it. Just like PEDs. Fer chrissakes, get over it. An arrogant jock is tolerable to most fans and sports-writers, if he delivers the goods. Even an arrogant African-American jock. But a snob is not, especially a black snob, who rubs his "I'm Barry, I'm Black, and I'm Beautiful, and You're Not" in your face. You know something? Suck it up. Barry got the Big Bucks to hit the Big Bombs and he did it. And you loved it, even if you hated him. The gorgeous ballpark in San Francisco was built to showcase Bonds, but no one asked him to help design it. Turns out, after transforming himself physically and getting even better at the art of hitting in his athletic "old age," he is the only one in all of baseball who can do it. No one hits them out into the water but Barry. No one. Bonds' on-line journal on his website, is routinely mocked by the scribes (see Fred Claire's snide piece on MLB.com "Giants right to let Bonds go" as a perfect example), contains one of the classiest farewells I've ever seen by an athlete. Does it bother anyone else that ballparks are filled with white people and staffed by black people? ("Race isn't an issue" is all I hear these days.) In Barry's words:

It is also important to thank all the men and women behind the scenes at the stadium who come to work every day and make it possible for us all to enjoy a day at the ballpark.

Thanks, Barry. Does anyone else thank the ticket-takers, custodians, and beer vendors? After all this time, why do Bonds' teammates, past and present, consistently describe him in glowing terms? Where are the diatribes against him for selfishness and conceit? Turns out that Bonds loves baseball. Loves the game. Loves to play. Watch Bonds with the umpires, look for his comments over the years about them. He treats them as fellow professionals, and respects their work and judgments. Sort of amazing when you consider that every play in baseball is a judgment call. Barry has mastered that art, that subtle balance and sophisticated psychology of influencing the strike zone in the minds of the umpire and pitcher. How can you be a fan of the game and not be awe-struck by his poise in those classic matchups with all the great aces? Even his so-called "failure," his lack of a World Series ring, is another case of ignorance run amuck. Besides the obvious--it is a TEAM game, hello--the scorn heaped on 2nd-place finshers in this country is bizarre, and unwarranted. No one remembers who lost the Super Bowl or World Series, no one honors the Silver Medalist or vanquished contender. It doesn't matter that it took spectacular athletic skill and determination to achieve at that level. Only the Gold matters, and failure is not a lesson. Bill Buckner, goat of the 1986 Series, remembered thinking "oh, crap, we lost the game" when he made his infamous error. And just as quickly thinking, "oh boy, we get to play tomorrow." He thought, the poor sap, that picking up the pieces from a collapse and going out the next time just as determined to win, and just as full of confidence, was what competing was all about. He found out it wasn't. Bill won't be in the Hall with Barry, but he shares Bonds' understanding of the game. It is about the struggle to excel, it is about the climb to the mountaintop, whether you get there or not. Pedro Martinez says the secret to his sucess is that he is "not afraid to fail." Bravo. Barry gave us his all, his best. Giants fans know this, even the ones who have Bonds Fatigue. This fan will lament losing Barry. But I knew it would come some time soon, and so I am not shocked. Just numb. As far as the future of the ballclub goes, it isn't pretty in the short term. Bonds is BY FAR the best position player on the squad, and he won't be replaced by anyone remotely close to his ability. That brilliant fellow GRANT at McCovey Chronicles is far more eloquent than me about the Good Ship SF Giants. Read his post "Pollyanna" (9/22) for a look at the next few years. And say a fond good-bye to Barry.

21 September 2007

Raising Cain (redux)

"You have to keep competing, try to stay in as long as possible and scrap," Cain said, maintaining his composure despite having received two runs or less in 21 of his 31 starts this season.

Matt Cain is 7-16 despite being 13th in the NL with a 3.68 ERA, 11th in the NL with a 1.27 WHIP, and 11th (among starters) with .237 BAA. Matt is a good pitcher, and might just be a very good, even great, pitcher as he matures. Sixteen losses is an abomination, and reflects entirely the crappy team around him. In 2/3 of his starts the team manages to score 2 or fewer runs. That is pathetic. Cain's line (6 7 2 2 2 4) was credible, not dominant, he threw a lot of pitches (113) and put guys on. But he was tough and kept us in the game. Except we are almost never IN the game this year, the .438 win percentage is testament to that. I feel for the youngster, but he is saying all the right things, and playing hard every time out there. Only 9 more games left in this dismal season--probably only one more start for our hero. Go, Matt!

19 September 2007


Yes, I 've succumbed to the ease and simplicity of Blogger . . . and created a new blog! Check out French Street Brewery to read about M.C. doing his homebrew thang. I think this new blog will ultimately require lots of photos, after all, brewers want to see other brewers' stuff. And I think I've got a nice little set-up, too. So . . . anyone got an old digi-cam collecting dust (after your upgrade) that you can let me have cheap? Free? In exchange for brews?

January 2008 will be the 20th anniversary of my 1st batch o'homebrew. So, my foray into the blog-o-sphere is good timing, eh what?


16 September 2007


Matt Cadd had a rough weekend on an out of town job: jumped in an alley and harassed by the local gendarmes. His thirst was as intolerable as his aches and pains.

The local brewhouse served Happy Hour: here he found his cure.

"Let's have another," he told the barkeep.

. . . I figure the odds are fifty-fifty . . . (FZ)

15 September 2007

All for naught

Bruce Bochy had a grand time over-managing the top of the 7th inning in San Diego tonight. Trailing 1-0 after 6 innings, he yanked Matt Cain for a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded and one out. Cain had faced only 19 batters, yielding one hit (and no walks) and recording 6 K's in 77 pitches. Unfortunately, the one hit was a triple, and Barry was hurt on the play. A long drive by Adrian Gonzalez appeared to be stopped short of a HR by a leaping Bonds, but it also seemed his chance at catching it was disrupted by a fan. Regardless, the result was a hobbled BLB, landing awkwardly, and eventually a run. But the silliness of taking out Cain was underscored by our wretched pinch-hitting and relief pitching. Klesko PH for Cain, and was replaced by Rodriguez in a bit of lefty-righty nonsense, and Guillermo promptly hit the DP ball the Pads needed. Our bullpen, specifically Randy Messenger, coughed blood and now M.C. is on the hook for a loss. The only chance we had to beat SD tonight was Cain. Once he was gone, so were we. Loss number 15 is the only thing Matt will get out of tonight's superb--albeit abbreviated--effort.

13 September 2007

Spiritus Frumenti

SALVETE, my friends and fellow imbibers! We continue to be astonished here at Roma Aeterna by the resourcefulness of those barbarians across the Mare Atlanticum. As much as it pains me to reveal my ignorance, it seems this aqua vitae I'm addicted to is only the last in a long series of steps that begin with the fermentation of grains. These fellows make a "beer" first (which we would call cervisia) from a grain porridge, much like the gruel the servants eat. A Roman, of course, would not eat such swill, but the unfortunate brutes are lucky to get fed at all (my horses eat better than most of them). I suppose they lack grapes or something, and have to make their intoxicating drinks from what is at hand. Nevertheless, these fellows make this beer, and distill it to make their "whiskey." But that is not all--some stop at the beer. Indeed! They have no intention of obtaining the spirit, they are happy with the fermented mush. Sounds terribly unappetizing, but they cleverly age and clarify the liquor from these cereals (O Goddess Ceres, forgive them!) and make a palatable drink. Here at Roma Aeterna, the servants saved themselves a flogging by bringing me one of the finest of these drinks, a brew called CERVISIA ANCORA VAPOR (Anchor Steam Beer). Earthy and citrusy, with bready undertones, this sparkling grain-wine is a revelation! I must have more like it. (The servants have been instructed thusly.) Apparently these barbarians live a place first settled by Provincials from Hispania, called in their tongue San Francisco of California. Word is they live by an ocean even larger than the Mare Atlanticum! Hah! Ignorant, superstitious louts! Well, we won't get in to that. The "beer" is far too lovely. Propino tibi salutem!

Beware the Ides, my friends, beware the ides.

Id. Sept.
a.u.c. MMDCCLX

Ex scrinio Marcus Hibernicus Crapularius, scriptor de aqua vitae
et cervisia.

10 September 2007

Raising Cain

Matt Cain rebounded from his worst start of the year to pitch a beauty against the LA Smoggers. The line was 7 6 2 2 1 4, but the effort got M.C. a big ND. The Chavez Latriners got two 400-foot bombs from Jeff "Dirtbag" Kent, who continues to torment the Giants. He hit one off a 95-mph fastball and another off an 87-mph breaking ball. Both pitches were over the fat of the plate, and you just can't leave it out there for a hitter as good as Kent. But they were SOLO bombs, and our boys managed a scrappy comeback to take Matt off the hook. He left down 2-1, but an 8th-inning PH 3-run 'tater by Ray "Where Have You Been" Durham provided the winning margin. What I liked about this start by Cain was the 1--that's right, 1--walk. M.C. has had his control problems this year, and to see him throw 7 with only one freebie is a great. The strikeouts are a terrific weapon, and you know he can crank it up and blow guys away when the situation demands it. But a more important number is TBF--total batters faced. Yesterday it was 28, or four per inning pitched (6 hits and 1 walk plus 21 outs). At 109 pitches, that is a hair under 4 pitches per batter. Over time I expect to see his efficiency improve, and he'll get into the 9th inning with 100-110 pitches. For now, I'm happy this almost 23-year old is in Orange and Black.

09 September 2007


Matt Cadd was paid good money to find Raven, the famed belly dancer. Mr. Cairo wanted her back.

She was in a long line of athletic blondes treadmilling in an uptown spa.

"I followed your trail of glitter and bindis, doll," he said.

"You can tell him 'no'," she said.

Fifty ways to leave your lover, baby, and fifty words for our super-sleuth.

04 September 2007

Matt Cain's Blues

My boy M.C. (Matthew Thomas Cain--talk about Biblical) turns 23 on October 1st. He's had a rough year, going 7-14 so far. Yesterday he struck out 5 of the first 8 guys he faced then couldn't get an out, yielding 6 runs to the Rockies. After going 4-1 in August, he started September with his shortest stint of the season. He has pitched brilliantly and had nothing to show for it: 5 starts in June, 3.27 ERA, 33 IP and 22 K, 0-4 record. He's pitched poorly and gotten dinged for it: 5 starts in July, 6.58 ERA, 1-3 record. Before yesterday he'd gone 7 starts in a row of at least 6 IP and no more than 3 ER, with 40 K and an ERA around 2.25. So we have seen the real M.C. recently and we like it. The Giants are a lousy team, and young pitchers are going to take their lumps with our weak-hitting lineup and shoddy fielders. But the future is bright--our two young hurlers (M.C. and Tim Lincecum) are both 1984 babies. They could be wearing orange and black for a long time. Cain is listed as 6' 3" and 235 lbs. on the roster. He's big and strong and looks like Tom Seaver when he throws. When his curve and changeup are working he is very hard to hit because he throws 95 mph all day long. Hang in there, my boy, you are going to win a lot more often than you lose. We just need to get a team around you.

03 September 2007


Matt Cadd found the heisted handbags and earned himself a hefty bundle from the insurance company. But he didn't make any friends along the docks--the stolen Guccis would have filled a few pockets. So he stood rounds at The Anchor, spreading the wealth.

"Just call me moneybags," he quipped.

Fifty quid for yer pocket, mate, and fifty words for yer story.

31 August 2007


One thing my practice of t'ai chi and qi gong is supposed to teach me is focus. That is, mind and body are one--when practicing the forms, the mind must be on that time and place, that moment, and not on some other thing. I learned a powerful lesson yesterday about the lack of focus. I was riding my mountain bike on my favorite trail, a flat, woodsy, well-kept single track. I let my mind wander to the delights of this trail, and the joy of riding it, rather than simply stay in the moment. Sure enough, just as I remembered that the stretch of the trail I was on requires a bit of focus to "thread the needle" between a couple of big rocks, it was too late. I rode the bike directly into one of the rocks. The bike came to an almost complete stop. Now, Mr. Newton wasn't bullshitting about the 1st Law of Motion. My inertia sent me over the bars and to a hard, hard landing on the trail. Fortunately, I landed on my hip and rolled on to my shoulder. I gave my elbow a beautiful case of road rash. My gluteus is very sore, and I have an impressive bruise just below my hip bone. Minor injuries, really. (1) I was going too fast. (2) I'm out of shape and out of practice and should not have pushed myself so hard. (3) I let my mind drift from the time I was in and the place I was at. Just desserts.

28 August 2007


Got up at about 0200 this morning and watched the partial phase of the lunar eclipse for a few minutes. The full moon's light was still very bright even with a chunk taken out of it. It was clear and cool and the moon was high in the southwest. Went back to bed and checked again at about 0300, near the start of totality. The sky was quite dark, the light of the full moon was now gone. The moon's face was distinctly rusty-red, but it was surprisingly bright. I could see all the major features easily. The Mare Tranquilitatis (which I believe is Lunar East) was on the lower right-hand edge of the disk, with its 'legs' pointed down. That is from my observer's perspective. I could not see the much smaller Mare Crisium, but I must admit that in the wee hours my eyesight--lousy to start with--isn't all that keen. Binoculars made the red color fade, the moon exhibiting a blue-gray cast when I looked through my Nikon 9 x 25 Travelite V pair. I wonder if the small exit pupil (25/9 = 2.77) was responsible for that. So, I head to work today a little bleary-eyed, but it was worth it. Not too often do we get such an easy-to-view lunar eclipse--the furthest I traveled was my patio! Later in the morning, 0500, I got up for good and had a nice look at Orion, Taurus and Gemini (with Mars lurking near Aldebaran) in the southeast. The best things in life are indeed free.

26 August 2007

MATT CADD, PRIVATE EYE: Beware the Tides

The chase down the coast road ended on the high cliffs above the surf. Matt Cadd stood next to his idling 1959 Roman Red Corvette. In the waves below was the black coupe he'd pursued from the bowels of the city. He tossed his Lucky Strike away.

"Them's the breaks."

Fitty in da hood.

The Matt Cadd mini-sagas continue . . .

20 August 2007

Man of Many Monikers

Ed McBain is really Evan Hunter. Unless you mean Curt Cannon or Richard Marsten or Hunt Collins or Ezra Hannon or John Abbott. Because those guys are Ed McBain--I mean Evan Hunter--too. What a mess. According to Wikipedia, Evan Hunter is really Salvatore Lombino, who was born in 1926 and died in 2005. Whatever he called himself, he was a remarkably prolific and influential writer. I am in the throes of a Hard Case Crime binge, and HCC-015 is The Gutter and the Grave, and it is credited to Ed McBain. Now, it was published in 1958 as I'm Cannon--For Hire, buy Curt Cannon, but the main character in the story (told in first person) is Matt Cordell. Go figure. Despite the psuedonymic psilliness, The Gutter and the Grave is a great read. Hardboiled in the Mickey Spillane tradition, with lots of tough-talking, big-breasted women who fall hard for our anti-hero, and lots of tough-talking, broad-shouldered cops and thugs who lean on him just as hard. This is how it starts:

The name is Cordell.
I'm a drunk. I think we'd better get that straight from the beginning. I drink because I want to drink. Sometimes I'm falling-down ossified, and sometimes I'm rosy-glow happy, and sometimes I cold sober--but not very often. I'm usually drunk, and I live where being drunk isn't a sin, though it's sometimes a crime when the police go on a purity drive. I live on New York's Bowery.

How can you NOT like this book? Funny, painful, sordid, and beautiful, The Gutter and the Grave is filled with this kind of taut, muscular prose. McBain is capable of commenting on life and telling the tale at the same time--a devilishly brilliant feat. There's a bit near the climax, where Matt Cordell finds himself at a West Side jam session where the jazz is really cooking, and he ruminates on music and race, then he meets a singer--gorgeous, naturally--and he ruminates on sex, then he talks about violence with a horn player afterwards. Not much happens for a few pages, but we learn about our man, ourselves, and our world. It is simple stuff, really, honest questions about Life, the Universe and Everything (thanks, DNA), but without any answers. And though the mystery is solved, and the loose ends tied up, our man, Matt Cordell, remains a loose end and a mystery. The bleak coda brings us back to the beginning, as if the maelstrom of blood and treachery and lust and loneliness he was caught in simply dumped him back to where he'd always been. Great stuff.

19 August 2007


1952 was a good year--my lovely bride was born then. It seems to be a good year for Hard Case Crime as well--five of their thirty-four titles are from the Year of Our Lord MCMLII. I just finished A.A. Fair's (excuse me, Erle Stanley Gardner's) Top of the Heap, HCC-003. Day Keene's Home is the Sailor (HCC-007), Wade Miller's Branded Woman (HCC-011), Richard S. Prather's The Peddler (HCC-027), and George Axelrod's The Blackmailer (HCC-032) round out the list of 1952 titles. Funny thing, two of my wife's favorite authors--Walter Mosley and the late Douglas Adams--were born in 1952! I suppose 1952 was a good year for noir. Mr. Mosley is one of the best in the business. Douglas Adams wrote a funny, quirky thing (big surprise) called Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (and the character of Dirk returns in The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul). I guess Mr. Adams is a noir writer, too, in his own funny, quirky way. 1952 was a good year, indeed. (R.I.P, D.N.A.)

15 August 2007


Ted Williams was nicknamed "Teddy Ballgame." It meant he had intensity and focus, that is, a "gameface." My mother grew up with Williams, she was born and raised within walking distance of Fenway Park. My mother is beloved by all for her warmth and humor, but she will get in your face and talk some serious smack if you (1) dis Teddy or (2) suggest Barry Bonds is the greatest LF of all time. Otherwise she is a fine Giants fan, despite the Red Sox blood in her veins. Now, I appreciate Williams' greatness--if he hadn't lost 5 years to WWII and Korea (as a pilot!), we would be talking about Barry breaking HIS record, not Hank's. But Barry is the best, hands down (sorry, Ma). He is Williams with a great glove and blazing speed, and he is Williams' heir in terms of scientific hitting (plate discipline, concentration, studying pitchers, superb technique/mechanics). Here is another great Barry story (he only played 115 games in the minors over 2 seasons before being promoted):

"As a young kid, I had Ed Ott as a manager in Single-A ball and I'll never forget as long as I live -- he called me into the office and told me what the rules are. I asked him, 'How do you get out of the Minor Leagues?' He didn't say a word -- he went to my locker and got my bat and my glove and said, 'There you go, kid.' I said, 'I can do that.'"

08/13/2007 5:09 PM ET
New homer king pays visit to Pittsburgh
Bonds returns to city where he started his career
By George Von Benko / Special to MLB.com

13 August 2007


Honey was the perfect secretary: blonde, built, single. But no dating the boss.

"You're fired," Matt Cadd decided. "Dinner, doll?"

"What would mother say? Out of a job, dating the old boss . . . "

He shrugged, stumped.

Feral eyes glowed. "She'd say 'Swell, sweetie. He took the bait. Now set the hook.' "

Fifty words is all you get in the mean streets of MC mini-sagas.

12 August 2007

Strathisla Shortage

Ex scrinio Marcus Crapularius, scriptor de aqua vitae . . .

Health and wealth to you my friends. Here at Roma Aeterna, we have been blessed by the gods and have had both in abundance. Alas, the bottles sometimes run dry, and I have to flog the servants to allay my thirst. Those mysterious Caledonians make a sublime single malt called STRATHISLA, a tongue twister even to native speakers of their barbarous tongue. It hails from a village in Banffshire called Keith, that straddles a stream called the Isla. (Those Gaelic fellows don't say the 's' for some reason, the brutes.) Most of the spirit made there is blended as CHIVAS REGAL, which at least has an honorable Roman sound about it. Tracking down this green-bottled goodness is a major household undertaking, and I would normally wax poetically about your need to track some down as well. But, surely you understand, the more you gobble up the less there will be for the larders here at Roma Aeterna! These Caledonians are beholden to a band of Gallic Provincials called Pernod Ricard, who I gather have many spirits in their stables. I, Marcus Hibernicus Crapulariaus, solemnly pledge that I will seek out these elusive "whiskies" as they are called, and report back soon! Meanwhile, I shall bemoan the loss of the magnificent Strathisla, and satiate myself instead on those wicked liquors from Kentucky, far across the Mare Atlanticum.

prid. Id. Aug.
(Beware the Ides of Augustus! Tomorrow!)

11 August 2007

Say It Out Loud

Some authors beg to be read aloud. Louis L'Amour, especially his early Sackett novels, is at his best when spoken. His prose is direct and has a natural storyteller's easy flow. Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee mysteries are better out loud. He has a great sense of place and draws concise, vivid pictures of the southwestern landscape. Like L'Amour, he has a straightforward literary style, without ornamentation. Genre writers have to master this--plot and character have more impact on the genre reader than arty construction. The masters have seized the confines of the genre and shaken a distinct tone, mood or style out of it, and made their mark. Sort of like being straitjacketed and winning a dance contest--the very strictures become your brushstrokes. I recently discovered the powerful beauty of a noir master, Chester Himes, by reading him out loud. The Real Cool Killers is a Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson adventure, set in 1950's Harlem. The two detectives work the toughest beat in the city, and they have to be tougher than everyone in it to do their jobs and survive. Mr. Himes' prose is so wickedly dark, funny, bleak and brilliant you have to say it out loud, stop, and say it again:

The loud licking rhythm blasted from the jukebox with enough heat to melt bones.

Flash bulbs went off around the corpses like an anti-aircraft barrage.

She looked like the last of the Amazons blackened by time.

Much of the story is told in dialogue, and much of that in dialect, but it is written so well it is fun to read:

"Naw suh, he brung 'em and took 'em away by hisself. I never even seen any of 'em."

"I don't know only two of 'em." He separated them gingerly with his fingertips as though they were coated with external poison. "Them two. This here one is called Good Booty, t'other one is called Honey Bee. This one here, I never heard her name called."

The story is short, only 158 pages, and fast-paced. Most of the action takes place in one afternoon and evening, and the whole episode lasts maybe three days. I'm looking forward to tackling some more Chester Himes--The Collected Stories, which I found along with The Real Cool Killers at Powell's. Alas, I won't be reading them aloud. For the record, I gave Gravedigger my best basso profundo, and Coffin Ed a rasping growl. For more Chester Himes, check out his page at Vintage Crime/Black Lizard or the aforementioned Powell's.

10 August 2007

More on BLB

The anti-Bonds crap and the media blindness to his authentic athletic prowess and accomplishments is maddening for this baseball, SF Giants, and Barry fan. Thank goodness there are some real thinkers out there in pundit-land. I've already pointed TPP readers to Only Baseball Matters, a thought-provoking blog by John J. Perricone. Besides having the best title, the writing is first-rate, and his appreciation for Barry Bonds is as smart as it is refreshing. I came across another writer, Dave Zirin, who has a site called Edge of Sports. Check out his take on Bonds: Barry Bonds: Steroids, Scapegoats, and Sweet Satisfaction. I e-mailed Mr. Zirin to tell him "thanks" for the well-written, intelligent take on the Bonds Story. This piece appeared as a guest opinion in the smarmy SF Chronicle, where it was headlined "756*!" Why they chose to stick that nasty asterisk on the page in huge type is beyond me. But I've had it with the Comical. I grew up with this newspaper, but I'm sick of their cheap-shot outlook and phony sophistication. The only reason I read it anymore is because I will always think of the Bay Area as home, and it is a (admittedly weak) link to those bygone days. Congratulations, Barry, you are the HOME RUN KING.

09 August 2007

Best BLB

My favorite story so far in all this Bonds coverage comes from Henry Schulman in the Giants Report/SF Notebook section in today's (Thu 9 Aug 07) SF Chronicle Sporting Green:

Someone asked Bonds how President Bush reached him. Did Bush call his home?

"No," he said, "nobody has my home number."

Long Live The King!

Ali gave Bonds inkling Aaron would be next, by Henry Schulman

07 August 2007

Barry, Barry, Barry!!!

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!!
Finally, Finally, Finally!!!
I have been on tenterhooks all summer. The team isn't going anywhere--the only thing to root for was Bonds getting The Record. Tonight he blasted one to right-centerfield, the deepest part of the park, and the wait is over. Congratulations, Barry, YOU ARE THE KING.

1. My previous post, "Milestones," was supposed to be funny, mocking the criticism of Bonds and the kid-gloves treatment other ballplayers get. I'm not sure that was evident. The statistical information was supposed to balance the tone, and show I was serious about Bonds' place in the pantheon of sluggers. (I'll get better, I promise.)

2. I've been critical of Aaron for avoiding The Chase and seeming to "dis" Barry. The video message on the board at PhoneCo suggested I was wrong about The Hammer. I'm glad that happened. (It was quite a surprise, apparently to the radio broadcast crew as well.) The statement was a little stilted, sounding too prepared, but those are quibbles. Too bad Bud Selig could only manage a scowl in San Diego.

3. The Nationals pitcher, Mike Bacsik, who served up the homer, is the son of a major league pitcher, also named Mike Bacsik. Young Mr. Bacsik was born the year I graduated from high school (MCMLXXVII). The older Mr. Bacsik faced both Bobby Bonds and Henry Aaron in his brief (73 games) career. Young Mr. Bacsik becomes the 446th pitcher to yield a homerun to Barry. (It was an entertaining battle, a 3-2 hit off a lefty after a near foul-out. Barry was 2 for 2 with two hard hit balls before then.)

4. We listened to the broadcast with the peerless Jon Miller (KNBR 680 AM) via MLB's Gameday Audio. Our local Giants affiliate also handles the A's, and we can't rely on them to carry all the games. Gameday Audio is great! We then viewed the post-HR ceremony and the replay of the at-bat using the MLB.TV free "live-look." I'm glad we got to see that. Despite the awkwardness of suspending play, it went well, and Barry handled himself with reasonable grace and tact. I particularly liked how he acknowledged the other team. It is probably a pain in the ass for the visiting and/or opponent club to be part of any fan love-fests or historic milestones. Jon Miller's partner, Dave Flemming, got to call #755 in San Diego, and it was fitting that the senior man got to make the Big Call.

5. Barry didn't need to hit 756 HRs to convince me he's the greatest, I knew that already. Every time I watch him hit one, my jaw drops. He has such a beautiful swing--balanced, compact, seemingly effortless. His technique is perfect, the confluence of exceptional talent and an extraordinary work ethic. Regardless of how you feel about Bonds personally, you cannot help but admire his ability. He is the master of the craft of hitting.

06 August 2007


Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron with home run number 755 on Saturday night. My wife Sue and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary that evening at our woodsy getaway, and listened to the broadcast of the game on a transistor radio. Alex Rodriguez became the youngest man to hit 500 HRs, besting Jimmie Foxx by a few months (Foxx only hit 34 more in his injury-plagued final years, retiring at age 37), and Tom Glavine won his 300th game. The latter two events were of course lauded by both the mainstream and sports media, while Bonds got his usual dose of vitriol mixed in with the praise. All are noteworthy milestones. A-Rod has a legitimate chance to break every offensive record in the books. He is only 32, and in this age ballplayers perform at high levels into their 40's. Whoops! Did I say that? Hmmmmm. Let's see: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and, uh, Barry Bonds, have all done things in their late 30's and early 40's that they were not expected to do. I remember hearing when I was a kid that there would be no more 300 game winners. I guess they must have put something in their Wheaties, eh? After all, Bonds is a cheater, right? A phony, chemically-juiced, artificial robo-player, am I right? But, Greg, Roger, Tom and Alex are real men. Pure. Un-enhanced. They can do these things because they have TALENT and DETERMINATION. Bonds took a bunch of drugs. He's fat and lazy and an egomaniac who has sullied professional sports. But Greg, Roger, Tom and Alex are great. They would never do anything wrong. Their milestones matter. But Barry? Screw him. 755 homeruns means nothing. I notice that Barry hit many of his 755 homeruns in two of the most difficult ballparks to hit in--Candlestick and the former PacBell, AT&T Park. (Hank played 10 years in Atlanta, the old Fulton County Stadium, known as "The Launching Pad.") I also notice that Hank had 13,940 plate appearances and made 9,136 outs in 23 years. Barry tied Hank with only 12,506 plate appearances, and only made 7,253 outs during a similar (22 years) span. Hmmmmm. And Barry has scored 2209 runs to Hank's 2174. Now Hank was one of the titans of the game, a real great. But in the two most important things in baseball--outs and runs-- Barry is better. In fact, Barry IS better. Period. Congratulations to Tom Glavine on his remarkable career, to A-Rod for his astonishing ascendancy to the pantheon, and to Barry Lamar Bonds for being the greatest player of the modern game, and without doubt the greatest hitter of his time.
(p.s. check out Baseball Reference, a stat heads dream site.)

01 August 2007

Beyond Mare Atlanticum

Ex scrinio Marcus Crapularius, scriptor de aqua vitae:

Here at Roma Aeterna, we still find it hard to believe that there are lands across the northern sea, and that these lands are actually inhabited. Must be a hardy bunch of barbarians, and clever as well, for they make a wonderful spirit. The land is called America, or so my servants tell me, and the place this wonderful spirit comes from is Kentucky. (Who knew that Greeks taught them to spell?) The wide, clear bottle is labeled WOODFORD RESERVE, or reconditus silva vadum in our civilized tongue. Unlike the Caledonians, these Americans make a sweet, robust, almost viscous drink. Redolent of vanilla and butterscotch, with a huge caramel chewiness, Woodford Reserve is nothing short of spectacular. My fleet-footed Ganymede earned his keep, constantly refilling my cup with this luscious beverage. They have a (relatively speaking) famous horse race over there, in Kentucky, without chariots (imagine!), and this aqua vitae is their preferred tipple. Not that I blame them. If I were stuck in their wilderness, so far from civilization, I would drink myself into a stupor, and beg Almighty Jove for his forgiveness. Fortunately, I have no need to leave my villa, as these Americans are navigators as well, and they ship their wares to Ostia, where the mercatores get their hands on them. My servants have been told to be on the lookout for more of this Kentucky spirit!

Id. Aug.

31 July 2007


David Goodis' The Wounded and the Slain is a Hard Case Crime reprint (#31, May '07) of a 1955 novel. (See an excerpt here.) TPP readers know of my fondness for Hard Case. I own them all, and expect to own all future ones. My only complaint is sometimes the print quality is bad--faded and uneven. It gives the books a cheap, knocked-off feel. The covers are gorgeous, and I'm planning to add a special shelf in my library to display them, so that makes up for it. Almost. The best part is the quality of the works--smart, hard-hitting stuff. The recent Goodis is packed with existential anguish and repressed desires, and the exotic locale (Jamaica) gives our protagonist license to debauch himself. Naturally, he spills blood, and complications ensue. The surprise is the resolution. Expecting a re-telling of Camus' The Stranger, I got something else entirely, and it worked. Despite some dated material, The Wounded and the Slain has a sympathetic pair of leads, and their crisis is the meat of the book. I was also surprised by Richard Stark's Nobody Runs Forever, the most recent book in the new Parker series that began with Comeback in 1997. (Stark has abandoned the title word play: Backflash, Flashfire, Firebreak, Breakout were the follw-ups.) Ask the Parrot is the next one, due out in November. Donald E. Westlake needs no introduction, as TPP has already lauded him as a master, and we will buy and devour Ask the Parrot. However, I found Nobody Runs Forever to be a bit dull, except for the last part, and burdened by a Dortmunder-like undercurrent of humor. Now, Mr. Westlake is a very funny man, one of the best at comic novels. And that is why we read him and bumble alongside guys like Dortmunder. But this is a Stark novel. Parker, fer chrissakes. And we expect Parker to be hard-boiled, and all business. I wonder if the series is going to end. The surprise ending of Nobody Runs Forever gives that idea some credence. This one had a slow start and an uneven tone, but the climax was handled deftly. No surprise there. Maybe I'm just being fussy, and the book is just as good as the last few. I suppose I'll find out when I ask the parrot.

prid. Kal. Aug.

25 July 2007


This is post number one hundred for Ten Pound Press. That's 100. The Big C. Obviously I have changd the look of TPP (Blogger makes it very easy), and I've been experimenting with new forms. The Matt Cadd stuff is parody, having fun with conventions--the modes and tropes of the genre--and playing with the mountain of cliches available. Using the tight format, the 50-word mini-saga, makes it easy. The Marcus Crapularius is much more difficult. I'm trying to find a voice and so far it is just a half-baked notion, but I expect it will start to work. I needed an angle on the whiskey writing and M. Crap. came out. I hope both will add some humor. M. Crap. can lampoon modernity with sophisiticated wit while Matt Cadd can get down and dirty with fisticuffs and femme fatales. In the meantime, I've a pile of recently read books needing reviews, and some stories to get to work on.

a.d. VIII Kal. Aug.

23 July 2007

ex scrinio MARCVS CRAPVLARIVS, scriptor de aqua vitae

Welcome to Roma Aeterna, humble home of your host, Marcus Crapularius. It seems those barbarians north of the Antonine Wall, in a cold and craggy wilderness called Caledonia, make a variety of lovely spirits. In their rough and uncultured tongue they call it "uisce beatha" or "whisky." We Romans know it as "aqua vitae." It is a terrible time to be a Roman these days, as you know, what with slavery and all forms of servitude falling out of fashion. How does a patrician get good help? Fortunately, I have a superb cup-bearer, and I aim to keep the little Ganymede away from the clutches of my grasping neighbors. That's what happens when you give the plebs the same status as the ruling classes--they want what you have! But that is a rant for another time, my friends. These Caledonians are kin of our Gallic brethren, but of a more independent nature, and known as "Gaels" or "Celts." This particular whisky is named for a bird, a sort of partridge or gamecock. TETRAO NOBILIS in our language, The Famous Grouse in theirs. (Though what is notable about a fowl I can't imagine!) It is a fine, smooth drink, I must admit, not as distinctive as some of the so-called single malts, but eminently quaffable. These tricky fellows sometimes make a "blend" of whiskies, smoothing out the rough edges by mixing different spirits to achieve a harmonious combination of flavors. Here at Roma Aeterna we usually like the unique, individualistic nature of those unadulterated single malts, but one has to be flexible and open-minded. There was a time, friends, when a Roman had no fear of losing his supply of delicacies, for he was the only one cultured enough to demand that commodity. What with "free trade" and other abominations, even the nobility have to fight for their share of rare treats. With supplies of aqua vitae subject to "market fluctuations" and other nonsense, one must be prepared to appreciate and enjoy a greater variety. Thank goodness those foreigners make such a diversity of excellent drink! Get your hands on some TETRAO NOBILIS, The Famous Grouse, and enjoy smooth sipping.

a.d. X Kal. Aug.

22 July 2007


"That's a bad habit, Sister"

She smirked, and took another drag. The naked priest lay on the bed, the Marlboros on the dresser.

"It was an accident, Matt. He had a weak heart."

"Church business, eh Sister?" Matt Cadd eyed the dingy motel room suspiciously.

"Sure," she said. "Missionary work."

Look for the mini-sagas of Matt Cadd, Private Eye, here at TPP.
"Gettin' it done in exactly 50 words, baby."

a.d. XI Kal. Aug.

19 July 2007

Barry, Barry, Barry!!!

Yes, the Avatar of Sport, the Dark Prince of Baseball, the Bionic Man Himself has confounded critics AGAIN with two blasts today. One was the longest homer to RF in Wrigley (actually hit OUT of the park completely and on to the street) by anyone this year--not bad for a a guy about to be 43. Sure, the Giants lost. It is a lost season. The only thing we Giants fans have left this year is Young Phenom Tim Lincecum and Barry "The Greatest" Bonds. Think about this: Barry was 3 for 3 with 6 RBI and a walk. His on-base percentage, despite having an 0-fer series against the Dodgers over the weekend, is STILL over .500 and STILL leads ALL of baseball. Barry makes the fewest outs, sees the fewest pitches to hit, is almost 43 years old, and STILL has 19 home runs and 48 RBI in only 223 at-bats. WOW. He has a real shot at getting 30 bombs this year. I hope he does it. Right now, he could TIE Aaron in Milwaukee and then PASS him at home on his birthday (the 24th). We'll see how it all plays out. Historical note: Barry has 71 multi-homer games in his career. Babe Ruth is #1 with 72.

a.d. XIV Kal. Aug.

18 July 2007


She said her name--Greta--but Matt Cadd wasn't listening, just looking. Blonde hair, blue eyes, legs that went forever. The stack of bills was as thick as a book and the photo of her husband was on top.

"So," he said, "what's the job?"

"I vant to be alone."

TPP has added a new feature: the adventures of private eye MATT CADD, who is stuck in the fictional universe of "mini-sagas." That means he only gets 50 words--no more, no less.

a.d. XV Kal. Aug.

16 July 2007


TPP welcomes guest contributor MARCUS CRAPULARIUS, noted whiskey expert, who will keep the "spirits" flowing with trenchant commentary on the 'water of life.'

George Dickel is the other name in Tennessee Whiskey. Bourbon is not just a drink, it is a legal definition. In order to call something bourbon, it must be made in America. It must be made from a grain bill that is at least 51% corn (maize). And it must be aged in charred oak barrels. New barrels--use them once and once only. Then send them off to Scotland. Now, Tennessee Whiskey is a variant of American whiskey with its own distinctive character (and legal definition), that of "charcoal mellowing." Turns out sugar maple charcoal is the peculiar choice of this tipple. This "run" through the charcoal takes place after distillation, that is, the "white dog" (new spirit) is filtered before racking into barrels. I must admit that there are very few whiskeys (or whiskies) I find unpalatable, and Jack Daniels is one of them. Jack Daniels is the OTHER Tennessee Whiskey. It is NOT a bourbon, though far too many bartenders substitute it for bourbon and far too many drinkers and writers refer to it as bourbon. I find it too sweet and too perfumey. But JD is the 800-pound gorilla of the spirits world, and it crowds the shelf for poor George. But George is the real deal, folks. They are a small player (even though they are in Diageo's stable) but they deserve a spot on your shelf. We savored the "Barrel Select" yesterday on the deck at Fadeaway Bluff, magnificent Mt. Shasta looming to the east, casting a reflection on the waters of Lake Shastina. Dickel is made in Cascade Hollow, near Tullahoma, in Tennessee. Being in the shadow of the Cascades myself, knocking back some George D seemed the right thing to do. It is a smooth and richly sweet drink, with lots of vanilla and butterscotch notes, but not cloying or flowery. A man's drink! But ladies like it, too. (N.B. Dickel folks use the Scottish/Canadian spelling, "whisky" rather than the American/Irish preference, "whiskey.")

We survived the Ides of July, my friends, despite the forests burning all around us. M. Crap. will return before the Kalends.
a.d. XVII Kal. Aug.

12 July 2007


Some preliminary responses to OOTG2: I sure liked "Hit Me" by Christa Faust, which I had seen previously on DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash site, and "For All I Know" by Paul A. Toth. Mr. Toth's story was a contest winner. The illustration on p. 49 that opens "For All I Know" had been posted on the OOTG website as the basis for the short fiction contest for inclusion in the upcoming issue. I entered that contest, and used the illustration for a bar fight scene in "Tweaker." Apparently, "Tweaker" was a close second and got published on its own merits. Both of these individuals are published writers and have a long list of credits. I'm really looking forward to getting my February 2008 Hard Case Crime shipment--Money Shot--by the aforementioned Ms. Faust! It is a thrill to be published alongside accomplished pros like those two. I also liked the Bo Fexler, PI story "The Pleasure Business" by Clair Dickson (another Muzzle Flasher), and "To Get to Uncle Johnny's" by Mark Marquez. I Googled (is that really a verb?) Mr. Marquez and had no luck. I tried Googling (I conjugated it, it must be a verb.) 'M.C. O'Connor' and discovered that my blog profile is the third hit. I guess I need more web presence, eh? Finally, Steve Alten's "Lost in Time" stuck with me. I was not aware of Mr. Alten before, and his publishing credentials are impressive. I'll have to check out one of his novels. TPP will be back with a follow-up to this post after I digest issue 2 a little more.
a.d. IV Id.Iul.

11 July 2007

The 78th Midsummer Matchup

My earliest distinct baseball memories are from the 1967 World Series. They still played day games then. I remember coming home from school and being disappointed to learn that the St. Louis Cardinals had beaten my Mom's team, the Boston Red Sox, in the deciding 7th game. "Lonborg didn't have it today" was Mom's explanation for the end of 'Impossible Dream' season. I remember vividly Willie McCovey's MVP season in 1969, and Dad taking us to Candlestick Park to see the Giants (featuring slugging leadoff hitter Bobby Bonds) beat the eventual World Series winners Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of the 1971 NL playoffs. This was the era of National League dominance in the All-Star Game. From 1959 (my birth year) until 1987 the AL only won 5 times. The NL piled up 27 wins during that span (2 games were played from '59-'62), including streaks of 8 in a row and 11 in a row (there was one tie). Being a Giants--and hence NL--fan, I was convinced in my youthful ignorance that NL players were simply better. These days of course, the AL routinely whips the NL. After the NL's win in 1987 (a playoff year for the Giants, 1st since '71), the AL won the next six. The NL won three in a row, from 1994-1996, when the Giants were the worst team in the league. From 1997 on it has been all AL, with one tie. The shift of talent to the AL is obvious, and the "junior circuit" is clearly superior, much like the NL in the 60's and 70's. Last night's game showed the clear imbalance: the AL starting lineup had their league's leading hitter, Magglio Ordonez, batting in the 6th spot! The 3rd-string catcher, Victor Martinez, hit a home run. The winner, Boston ace Josh Beckett, won a World Series MVP with the NL Florida Marlins before jumping leagues. Ultimately the game is meaningless. It is, and should be, an exhibition, nothing more. The misguided attempt by Bud Selig to "make it count" by deciding the World Series home-field advantage is silly. Home-field should be given to the team with the best record, period. The old method of alternating was at least fair, though a bit dull. The NBA and NHL run vastly more complex playoff schedules, and manage to reward winning teams with home-field, so what is your problem, Bud? If it was up to me, each team would send 5 players, and we'd get a complete roster change every inning. The game would go 9 innings and all players would be required to get an appearance. The home run derby is absurdly long and terribly dull, and TV's attempts to make it interesting reek of desperation. Face it, the game is lousy on TV, much like football (i.e., 'soccer'). These are games of wide open spaces--the closeups TV loves so much take away all that is beautiful to the serious fan. Ichiro's inside-the-park homer had no drama because you couldn't see him running! We had to follow the camera follow Ken Giffey, Jr., and never (except in replay) got to see Suzuki's speed on the basepaths. I usually skip Bud's Fiasco, but had to watch Barry and my beloved ballpark. Even then, the game did not hold my interest. I'll admit it is mostly because the Giants stink, I mean really stink, and the season is a long bitter pull at this point. At least tomorrow we will have some REAL baseball again.
a.d. V Id.Iul.

07 July 2007


Yes, it is the 7th of July--the seventh month--in the year aught-seven, VII-VII-VII. In Roman times, we would call today the "Nones." TPP vets will notice a change to the format, the "chick getting beat with a stick" is now featured prominently and the exhortation to buy OOTG is in the header. I have not received renumeration for my contribution--I was not paid to submit a story to OOTG, I did it as part of a contest in hopes of getting published. In theory, according to OOTG's website, I should get a T-shirt or a contributor's copy of the magazine. No such luck so far. I'm a subscriber, so I received my normal issue, but no "gifts" to this point. Do I push the point? Do I whine and say "But I didn't get my T-shiiiirrrrrt"? I dunno. I'm happy to be featured alongside some real pros. My stuff measures up! They'd have to pry the T-shirt from my cold, dead hands, but I can live without it. Getting in print is reward enough.
At least for now.
Non. Iul.

04 July 2007

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!
Barry didn't play today, but he hit Number 751 last night in a loss. I correctly predicted that Bonds would be an All-Star--he won the vote in a late surge. I also predicted he would pass Hank Aaron on the all-time career home run list by the All-Star break. That looks doubtful. The exhibition is on Tuesday, the 10th, and the Giants have only four more games before then--one more in Cincinnati and three in St. Louis. Does he deserve to be on the squad? He leads all of baseball in on-base percentage (.517!!!) and is second--to Alex Rodriguez--in slugging. 'Nuff said. If you need further convincing, he leads all of baseball in walks and intentional walks. Seems to me he is still the biggest threat in baseball, and he makes the fewest outs. With the game in San Francisco, I expect we will get a lot of media play about how Barry is adored by the local fans and hated everywhere else. It is such a trite, tired story. The other night in Cincy, fans booed Barry coming up to the plate, then booed their manager for walking him. This happens everywhere he goes. I think there's a story there, guys.
Go Giants!
a.d. IV Non.Iul.

03 July 2007


Yes, this is post number 90 for all you Roman-numeral fans. Back home after a long holiday, and back on-line. According to my bio on p. 200 in the new issue (#2) of OUT OF THE GUTTER, I write about "books, baseball, whiskey and things noir." My story Tweaker is featured on page 78, and I'm delighted to see it in print! Get on the OOTG website and order yours today. You'll regret not doing it when I'm famous. Speaking of whiskey-induced fantasies, we discovered a new whiskey in Oregon. The McMenamin Bros. have made name for themselves in the Northwest buying old properties and converting them into adult theme parks. Well, breweries and restaurants anyway, with music venues and other diversions. Food, music, and drink? Good enough for me, I consider that a theme park. The old Multonomah County (OR) Poor Farm in Troutdale, now called McMenamin's Edgefield, is a complex of pubs, with lodging, eateries, a golf course, a winery and a distillery. Yes, an actual distillery that makes brandies, liquer, gin, and a WHISKEY. Yes, a real spirit, called Hogshead, that you can buy on the premises in fifths. The drink is described on the label as 100% barley malt, like a Scotch, but it has the full-bodied sweetness of a Canadian or U.S. whiskey. Unique, to be sure, and delicious. We were lucky to sample some in "The Little Red Shed" along with a Cohiba to smoke, courtesy of our friends Andrei and Kim in nearby Estacada. That was the penultimate day of our road trip, and a memorable one. The more I think about it, the more I want another dram of the stuff. I'm signing off so I can pour some more Hogshead.
As Andrei would say: Na zdorovye!

15 June 2007

Taking the good with the bad

Today we leave on our holiday, and TPP will be on hiatus until our return. The road trip will be fun and relaxing--new places, old friends, lots of time to write, it's all good. We had a fine send-off last night with our special pals after a busy day of last-minute preparations. One of the final pieces that failed to fall in to place yesterday was the Goddamn US Mail. I normally don't bitch about the mail, but my two newest subscriptions have not shown up yet. One is California, the magazine of the Cal Alumni Association. I've gotten my membership card and a pile of advert circulars, but no monthly magazine. My neighbor got his! So what's the deal? To further my chagrin, OOTG failed to arrive. Imagine--I get a story published, make my print debut, and I have yet to see it. My friend received her copy! Where's mine? Now, I'm supposed to get a T-shirt for being a contributor. Or is it an extra copy? I don't know. I do know I wanted the stuff before the vacation started so I could show my friends! Alas, I'll have to wait. It is a cruel blow, to be sure, but perhaps it is for the best. I have been anticipating Out of the Gutter #2 for so long now (March 31st I got word about my story) that I have not moved forward. Time to move forward with a new project. OOTG will be here when I come back.
a.d. XVII Kal.Iul.

14 June 2007

Powell's redux

Yes, I've blogged about Book Heaven previously, but on the eve of our road trip I couldn't stop thinking about our impending visit to Powell's. We will be in B.C. and Washington before the stop in Portland, but Powell's is a kind of traveler's epicenter for me. I found out yesterday that the orthopedic surgeon's office (the one who did my arthroscopy) gave me a 300 buck discount on the cost of the operation. Guess what I'm spending at Powell's? You got it--300 clams American. Three C's. Trecenti. My list is 6 pages long, so I imagine I'll have to be selective. You can drop a Franklin or two in that place within a couple of heartbeats. The store is so large, occupying a city block and five stories, that you can't take it all in, even if you set aside an entire day. It requires multiple visits and re-visits. Much like a city. Hence the name, "City of Books." Living in a rural county and a small town, I get starved for doses of urban madness. I lived in the beautiful city of Berkeley long enough to have had my fill of noise, crowds, crime, and hustle and bustle. I wouldn't trade my small town existence for anything these days, but I do need a decent city fix now and then. This trip will take us to Vancouver, a new city on our list, and Portland of course, an old favorite. Tomorrow's posting will be my last for a while, and I'll resume when we return home.
a.d. XVIII Kal.Iul.

13 June 2007

Baker's, and Beware the Ides

The quartet that is Small Batch Bourbons includes Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek, Baker's and Booker's. These are products of the Jim Beam Whiskey Empire, and damn fine ones I might add. Beam, Inc. has something for every palate and they claim to have sold ten million barrels of their spirits! We had the good fortune a few years ago to attend a function in San Francisco called "Whiskies of the World Expo." (You can check out that experience at Celtic Malts.) We were at the 4th and 5th annual events in 2003 and 2004, and one of the highlights was a seminar with Mr. Frederick Booker Noe III, a great-grandson of Jim Beam himself. He led us on a tutored tasting of the four Small Batch Bourbons, starting with the delicate Basil's and ending with the explosive Booker's. All of them were excellent, and it was a real treat to learn about bourbon appreciation from a member of a "royal" whiskey family. I kept thinking at the time "you can't go wrong" with any of these four and I have followed that dictum ever since. Last few evenings we have been pounding the Baker's, and it is some seriously deep shit. I like a complex drink, one that requires repeated visits, and Baker's fits that bill. I expect we will hit the fifth again with our pals tomorrow before our road trip commences on Friday. Hope the fifth survives.
Idus Iuniis

12 June 2007


Like its namesake, the Boeing aircraft, Barry's 747th streaked through the night in defiance of gravity. It had been a long time coming. Barry hit his 746th on the 27th of May. The long homer drought would not normally be news for a power hitter. After all, these guys are human and they go through slumps--even the best of them. But Barry being Barry means every nose hair is scrutinized. The steroids "scandal" and the on-going federal investigation of Mr. Bonds' alleged perjury in front of a grand jury has dampened enthusiasm for his record chase, and made sure his name will live in baseball's Hall of Infamy (along with Mark McGwire). Funny how "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's image was rehabilitated by a couple of films--the quirky and interesting Eight Men Out and the smarmy and maudlin Field of Dreams (based on the terrific novel Shoeless Joe by the Canadian writer W.P. Kinsella). I wonder if Messrs. McGwire and Bonds will find a similar cinematic redemption. The king of the baseball bloggers, John J. Perricone of Only Baseball Matters (indeed), has written incisively about Barry, MLB, the Feds, and the steroid silliness, and it would take a week of posts to give a precis that does Mr. Perricone justice. Check him out for yourself!. If it weren't for the bloggers, there would be no decent baseball journalism to read. The clowns in the national media have NO FUCKING CLUE (excuse me) and it pains me that they get paid to re-hash the drivel someone else has already regurgitated. Love or hate No. 25, he's the best hitter you will ever see. And that's what we pay our hard-earned dollars for. Number 13 last night brought The Dark Prince one step closer to the King's Throne.
Hank Aaron--you will always be a champ. Like Frank Robinson, you played in the big shadows of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, and never got the kudos that was due you. One thing Barry Lamar's chase will do is remind every fan what an outstanding ballplayer Mr. Aaron was. And that's worth something.
prid. Id.Iun.