Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fun Things To Do: Rainout Edition

We'll it's official: The Commissioner sent an email a few moments ago saying that we're rained out today. It's a shame, too. Week Four looked really promising, with some new faces and a batch of chocolate pastries whipped up by man-of-many-talents Darren. But if you've ever tried to play on Field Five within 72 hours of a light drizzle, you know it can be miserable.

Now what? For the past three Sundays, we've all had plans after 4 p.m. That's the best part of the Buttermilk Softball league: just when the weekend's over ... it's not over! There are fly balls to muff, hammies to stretch, exotic white sangrias to swill. But not today.

Here is a short activity book to keep you occupied on a rainy day. These are suggestions only. Feel free to make your own fun. My wife is out shopping for a wedding dress with a friend (it's the friend that's getting married), so I've got nothing but time to make these kind of suggestions.

Option No. 1: Music Videos

Bat for Lashes, "What's a Girl to Do?": My favorite music video at the moment. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it with any details, except to say this: It's like E.T. meets Donnie Darko with a soundtrack by a Bjork-Cat Power cloned hybrid.

Fionn Reagan, "Be Good or Be Gone": No relation to the former president, this Irish singer shot what might be one of the cheapest "clever" videos ever. What's more important? The song, or the ambient audio where he's playing?

If you are a Nick Cave fan, check out Brooklyn Vegan's compilation of Grinderman interviews and videos.

Dizzee Rascal, "Sirens": DR pushes the "chase video" into new territory, yet leaves many questions unanswered. Like, what's with the ending?

Option No. 2: Blog for

The Commissioner and I are looking for fresh new smartasses to blog here. If you want to post on, just start a free account at and then send me an email at I'll set you up.

Option No. 3 (Nerds Only): Watch the New 'Batman' Trailer

It won't be out until next summer, but promotion for "The Dark Knight" has already started. More details here.

Option No. 4: Talk About Last Night's Sonic Youth Show

Or, watch this awesome clip from the 1983 film Vigilante, which features a chase through McCarren Park Pool -- which was dilapidated even back then.

Rain Cancels Softball Week IV

Who loves the sun? Who cares that it makes flowers? Who else thinks that those are among the doofiest lines Lou Reed ever wrote?

Except the first one. It makes sense. Sun is far preferable to today's hazy, fugazy something-more-than-drizzly meteorological situation, and after consulting with the Buttermilk Softball League's leading meteorological figures, I have gathered that we can't play today. Everyone who lives near the park says it looks super shitty to the max and that there is, as they say, no end in sight. So game's off. Sorry.

You could always read a book or something (or order the anthology I'm in, you could do that: you won't get it today and not all the essays are that good, but what could be more satisfying than spending money on Amazon while it's raining?). And Comedy Central is probably showing a heavily edited version of Van Wilder or Scary Movie 2 or something. But you'd probably be better off killing yourself, honestly. Or buying my anthology. Do the second one first.

Okay: sorry about this week's crappy outcome, and I hope you'll all turn out next week. I won't be there, but this is one of those do-as-I-hope-not-as-I-will-do situations. Have a good week, playaz, and I'll see you in a fortnight.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Other Buttermilk

It was bound to happen, right? I received an email from a relative of someone who played on a Buttermilk Softball team in Comanche County, Kansas sometime around 1950. He thought our site might somehow be related. Because, you know, how many Buttermilk Softball teams can there be in the world?

Well, apparently there are at least two. You can read more about the team -- and check out the design of their so-spartan-they're-cool uniforms -- on this geneology site. FYI: The most recent U.S. Census data puts Comanche County's population at 1,884 -- equal to the number of high-end strollers trolling through Prospect Park at any point in time.

The team apparently took its name from the unincorporated town of Buttermilk, Kansas, home of the Big Gyp Cave Pictograph Site. The name refers to the presence of gypsum in the cave, not to its quality as a tourist destination or to a common epithet leveled at the Roma people. Big Gyp Cave is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The entrance to the cave, one of Kansas' largest, is pictured at right. Here's how a Witchita Eagle reporter described an expedition a couple of years ago [emphasis added]:

He gets out, then leads a group of students from West Texas A&M University down a steep hill and into what seems to be another world.

It looks like Colorado, or maybe the Ozarks in Missouri. A stream babbles over a small waterfall. Dense cedar trees create a canopy from the outside world.

And upstream: the entrance to Big Gyp Cave, one of the largest caves in Kansas.

It's home to some of the bats that Roth has grown to love over more than four decades.
Roth? "Bats?" Weird.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Who Wants A Body Massage? Softball Week 3 Recap

Better late than never, right? Softball Week Three: Let's Launch Over It.

So, again, yeah, busy week. Because I'm so talented at writing, see, and know so much about so many things, people are clamoring all over themselves to give me work. They're all "please, please, write 1,800 words for $400" and I'm like, "I don't usually work for less than 25 cents a word, but sure, let's do it, I don't want to get my cable shut off." And it's basically that awesome every week! I'm sorry: I'm bragging. Ugly trait.

Anyway, I'm late with the recap, but Joel came through with the ill memoir and bailed me out, and I appreciate that. But I know you all care about seeing your performance praised to the skies and misremembered five or so days after it happens, so here goes, as I remember it. Again, corrections are welcome. Apparently Ted Pitts got neither the win nor the save in week one, for instance, but both the blown save and the loss. That somehow seems more like something an Indians fan would have happen to him, but there are probably mistakes like that all over the first mega-recap post. Scour it! Correct me! Be mocked in turn. It's not really worth it.

So, this last week: again, it was hot. Sooner or later I'm going to stop mentioning that, and we'll all just assume that it's hot as fuck on Sunday afternoons in July and August. But it's still kind of novel to me, because I am still used to getting big money on some Tom Vu shit, in a climate controlled environment or on a boat with fly honeys. To wit:

Anyway, hot. Crowded. With familiar faces that were not, as it turned out, those of my friends. Again, we were a little late in arriving, for the most part. This time, though, we -- meaning I -- had to play the permit card and boot a bunch of dudes (the baseball pants'ed hotshots mentioned in this post from last year) off the scene so we could do our softball thing. This is the sort of Brooklyn social clash that absolutely perplexes me, if I can be real for a moment: these guys are not our friends. They're younger dudes who play a different brand of softball, drop n-bombs with the quickness, and generally act a lot more rowdy and NSFW. Originally, there were like five dudes there and I thought they could work in with the still thin Buttermilk Squad. Then more showed up. Then those guys' cousins. And our people were there, too, all of a sudden and then basically there were going to be two 40-man rosters, September MLB-ball style, and there was dissension in both clubhouses and some of the guys were wearing baseball pants and...I wound up booting them. They were cool about it, and retired to the nearby field at which we played a memorable away game last year. By that time, Buttermilk had assembled a full team again -- it only takes like 30 minutes -- and we were good to go. Softball was on.

And, almost immediately, softball players were on the disabled list. Before nine outs were recorded, Darren Guyer had pulled a quad (peace, Moises Alou) and Beth Ann Coulton, fresh off her best week as a Buttermilkmaid, did the same. With only one ice pack to go around, things could've gotten ugly -- although Linda's first-aid kit with hair bands in it came in handy (in the abstract) -- but didn't. For this, we have to thank our two valiant pack-sharing warriors and official Buttermilk Superfan -- and Jeremy Holmes special lady -- Abby. Not only has this unsung hero been coming through with cut-up fruit and fresh berries the last three weeks, but she also supplied the ice pack (I think). If she didn't...anyway, thanks for the fruit and good vibes, Abby. It's cool if you read during the game, I don't mind.

Injuries continued to pile up throughout the game, although Jorge was able to play through his dings, as Amber did the week before after taking a hot Dan May shot off the hand. The presence of two doctors -- my sister and her colleague/homegirl Jasmine -- also helped, in a way, although their discussion of whether or not BA should go to the emergency room quickly devolved into a public health debate in which the only winners were interested spectators who care to know how f'ed up our emergency rooms are. Also, Darren and BA were winners, because they got ace medical care and -- not to give away the ending -- still made it to the bar.

The game was, once again, well-played, with my Blue Jeans being held scoreless by pitchers Amber and Dan (maybe) for the first three innings and posting only one run through the first few turns through the order -- scored by Jeremy, powered by...probably not me, and possibly Jasmine. Definitely someone in the lower half of our order. I need to write these earlier in the week. The Bodegas, on the other hand, put together a couple of big innings -- a series of doubles seemingly without end, with some big blasts off the bat of newcomer Dan Duggan and '06 stalwart Ben Tausig. There were some defensive miscues on the Blue Jean side, and they were matched with stellar defense from Kelsey, Dan May (who turned a nice double play) and Colleen Hooper (who robbed me of what would've been my biggest hit of the year in left field) on the Bodega end. A furious Blue Jeans comeback in the final inning wound up falling short, although (as I remember it) Jorge, Jeremy, Jasper, Jasmine, Jeff Ciprioni and possibly several people whose names did not begin with "J" -- well, at least my sister and possibly newcomer Greg Ferguson and maybe some others -- delivered hits as well. Ultimately, pitching and defense beat...faintly hungover weird-feeling people (good idea on brunch, Reen!).

Also, for the second week in a row, we were blessed with the sweet sounds of the Celebrate Brooklyn Unbearable Music Festival, as a series of children's musicians (example not at left) came through and did their thing-things to the delectation of Park Slope parents/expensive stroller-consumers and their tow-headed, exotically named kids. Were there songs about pizza and fun and being youself and how sometimes when you have bad feelings you should talk to somebody? Definitely in the running banter between Joel at first base and me at second (I talk when I'm not catching pop-ups), and definitely onstage. And anti-war songs for the 3-7 year-old "Out of Iraq/Into Darfur" contingent, too. I fall in that contingent myself, of course, but I'm older and, like the kids, was too busy grooving on the songs about pizza -- it's so gooey! -- to think much about war. And then all of a sudden we were at the bar and my back hurt and I had beers and there was a bulldog in an AC/DC t-shirt walking around. Seriously, it's weird how those things happen.

Next week: perhaps more music for kids, or Jews, or Jewish kids, or maybe Modest Mouse again. But probably not. That was years ago. You can hear their songs in outlet malls now, I know because I heard one when I was at one in Hilton Head with my family. It wasn't "Shit Luck." Anyway, and if I may be frank with you: Frankly, I'd settle for a hungover and not-into-it Reverend Horton Heat playing childrens songs in Yiddish or whatever. more songs about pizza. They make me so hungry.

In a few days, we'll play again. A few days after that, I'll try to remember it. I'll see you all then. Not shown: Jasper's pleasant parents, watching their son and making sure we weren't, you know, creeps; injured-quad buckhunter action; Ryan Adams comparisons confirmed; long-ass bus rides. Until Sunday, then.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Where the Children Are All Above the Mendoza Line

By now many of you know the truth: I was not playing in Japan last season. I was not working out with Roger Clemens in Texas. I did not spend a year spreading the baseball gospel throughout Brazil. I did not get a Crash Davis-like offer to manage a team in a neighboring town. There was no Padres scout watching me during our 2005 season, and Marge Schott never called to ask if I wanted to be the Reds sliding coach. Marge Schott is dead, I am now told, and teams don't allot a special management position dedicated to sliding. Although they should.

I told most of you at least one of these stories. Several of you, I told two or more of the above. Dave, I told you the Marge Schott story, which was really stupid, and I also told you the Padres-scout tale and also the Crash Davis whopper. I need to stop here, Dave, to clarify that time at the Buttermilk I told you that I had $25,000 in diamonds in my equipment bag but just didn't feel like showing them to you. That was a lie. And you probably know that.

I spent the 2006 season on ice in Minnesota, working for a radio show. I got married to my wonderful Linda. I didn't touch a bat once.

OK, that's another lie. I went to a batting cage twice in St. Paul. But it was indoors, and the batting helmet liners were soft and rotten, and the Juggs machines were so poorly calibrated that I actually got beaned.

To fill the Buttermilk Softball void in my life, I purchased a Twins season ticket. A crappy one. In the crappiest stadium in the majors (not counting RFK). I attended about 50-60 home games and witnessed a truly incredible regular season. Walkoff homeruns. Grand slams in high drama. No-name players absorbing what should have been devastating injuries to star players. Batting title. MVP. Gardenhire getting tossed all the fucking time. Everyone had fire in the belly. After the last game of the regular season, I sat in the Metrodome with about 40,000 other fans and watched the Tigers implode. The division title was ours. Twins players rushed out of the dugout and dove into the outfield seats. I stoicly wept next to the childhood pal in the season ticket next to mine. It was just meant to be: Another half-page-tall Star Tribune headline ... Magic!

But a humiliating post-season defeat at the hands of an accounting firm (Oakland) put an end to all that. And my job in Minneapolis ended. Another one surfaced in New York.
Linda and I loaded a big Penske truck with all our belongings, and I went down to the DMV to get my very first driver's license so I could drive the thing. (OK, OK, she did the tricky driving.) Soon enough, we were back in the borough of Kings, living among the Polish people.

My negotiations with the Buttermilk Commissioner's Office were not easy. Not for me. Not for my family. The first game was also not easy for me. The crowd booed and they all put on fake glasses that look like the prescription ones I wear off-the-field. So cruel. I almost couldn't take it, but Commissioner Dave came over to me on the field and put his arm around my shoulder. Just like Pee Wee Reese did for Jackie Robinson. Also, I went spikes-first, hard, into second base later in the game and I felt way better.

So that's the real story of where I was last year and how I worked my way back onto the team. Well, mostly it's real.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Here My Dog's At

And that is why we go to the bar. That and alcoholic drinks and free songs and the thrill of the zombie chase.

For some reason my camera wasn't focusing very well today, which means that a couple of coulda-been baseball card-style photos came out really artistical, and that Joel had to pose with bubble tape one (or two) more times than was necessary. This photo, while not perfect, is exactly what it looks like. A dog in an AC/DC t-shirt. Drew, you better tell your dog to get his game together, because there is now some mascot competition on the block. And I'm not even going to talk about this guy:

Dog, you're slipping. Call Jet Li.

Recap to come sometime this week, for sure. Pretty sure. Also hopefully TK: my camera, functioning; injury updates; Joel Meyer and Linda Moucha's guide detailing how not to ride a bus to Prospect Park.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Getting Kind of Hectic: Weeks One and Two, More Or Less

Having "the power" is not all about taking it easy and buying new Raiders hats and getting the high-top fade touched up when necessary and rapping from a podium. There are downsides to all that responsibility. Uneasy rests the be-faded head that has a lot of writing to do on short deadlines (click here to see some of it). Last year, when I was working at Topps, I could do my 1,600-word recap thing on the company clock. That might've had something to do with how long they were, looking back. Now, though, the freelance lifestyle has attacked...and trust me, you don't want that.

And so we find ourselves once again behind the times on the Buttermilk Blog. I mean, things are happening, games are being played, t-shirt ideas are being bandied idly about, all that good stuff -- but I hear you: where are the recaps? How can you prove to those who might care that you had an RBI groundout last weekend? Where is the reminder that an older dude with a wife and kid came, got two hits and five RBI, and then decided to leave? The answer is: it would be in this space. If, that is, it were still well-ensconced in my head.

It's not, totally. It's not totally not, either. So this will be rushed, maybe skimp on some details, maybe ignore an RBI or two of yours. It's nothing personal. Just mention it in the comments section -- "actually, I had two doubles and four RBI in that game" -- that'll make you look really cool, Jeff.

So: Week One dawned bakingly hot but clear in New York City, and some hours after that dawn Buttermilk's Finest raised their bedheaded heads, ready to put heads to bed. The Bodegas were open and the Blue Jeans ablaze. And when four o'clock rolled around...we took batting practice for a long-ass time. A quorum was not obtained for some time, but by 4:35 or so, a regulation-size softball game was ready to bump. Fan favorites Joel Meyer and Linda Moucha returned from a brief exile in Minnesota -- where they'd gotten married and co-founded The Brad Radke Institute For The Advancement of Poise -- and the familiar faces attached to the names Ciprioni, Coulton, Pitts, Bielinski, King, Nelson, Hooper and, yes, Roth were all ready to roll. Newcomers expected -- Jeremy Holmes, a highly touted Ohioan; Patrick Boniface Resing, an emerging video artist and versatile defender who came to one game in '05; Daniel May, longtime homeperson back in NYC; Andrew Bell, big-swinging, classy-staying San Diego-an -- and unexpected showed. The unexpected were, as ever, amazing: an extremely new to New York couple named Kelsey and Amber, who brought a sunny California outlook and impressive skill sets to the table were joined by Jasper, a very young dude who would have a hard-ish time seeing over this metaphorical table. Young Jasp rocked batting gloves, fundamentals, and a dedication to fitness that extended to him nailing a bunch of sit-ups between innings. He's awesome and we all love him. The cast was set, and the game was on.

And, surprisingly, it was pretty on point. Big hits came from the bats of Seth Nelson, Kelsey (got to get a last name, there) and Joel Meyer, stunning defensive plays came from Amber in the outfield and from...that one guy. You know him. Handsome one, writes too much? That guy made a play in the infield that was pretty much the high point of his life, period. Period. I'm going to put it like this: Dan May hit a grounder that bounced off Jeremy's leg and into the air. From which I plucked it bare-handed and threw to first base in time to retire the batter, thanks in large part to a great stretch by Seth. I could find a way to make SUVs run on hugs and positive thoughts and I think that will still be my finest hour. The game was a shootout, with a walk-off win coming for the Blue Jeans (I think? It was my team) on a Jeff Ciprioni infield single that plated Andrew Bell, I think. Ted Pitts somehow recorded both the win and the save for the Blue Jeans. Statisticians will puzzle over it for years to come. The final was 13-12. The player of the game was I AM AN AWESOME DEFENSIVE PLAYER. I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

And thence to the bar, where good conversation was plentiful, one-dollar High Lifes were off the menu, and bartender Zombie Jeff Tweedy (right) continued to perplex. He gives us a bunch of songs: awesome. He's also weird and unfriendly and definitely was scheming on how to eat our brains: less awesome.

And then week two. Which dawned clammily hot and Philadelphia, for me. Our regulars were scattered across the nation: The Meyer/Mouchas in Blowing Rock, NC; Colleen in Delaware; Scott Snelling climbing K2 or some such thing. Rumors of rain in NYC proved just that, and by the time I stepped into the park it was, once again, hot as hell. The game once again kicked off late, but extensive practice once again made for a pretty well-played matchup.

My first turn on the mound was...anyway, based on those numbers, I'm probably challenging this guy for Worst Jewish Starting Pitcher Ever. Once your humble former Plesac Award Winner yielded the mound, though, the Blue Jeans (that's just going to be the team I'm on, going forward) began to cut into the 7-run deficit they'd been handed. To call the game a shootout is an injustice -- while there were again north of 20 runs scored, there was also stellar defense from Jorge (a friend of Jeremy's who made a couple of dazzling plays in left field), Kelsey (who at one point retired something like five straight batters himself), Jasper (thanks to a lot of coaching from Kelsey) and, in her first unassisted putout, Beth Ann. RBIs came from everyone but me, basically. Newcomer shouts go to The Family Man, who showed up, let his wife and kid watch him pwn us, and then bounced. Also Gabe London, a Pomona Sagehen from way back, and Darren Guyer, probably the second-best baker in our league and a long-awaited debut. This is going to be more detailed and shorter next week. I'll try to do it while I still remember what happened.

As ever: next Sunday. Guest stars (my sister, for real)! T-shirt talks! Postgame Gatorade purchases at the reasonably priced deli! Your suggestions on how I might edit these better! Catch that shit. It's softball season, and we play softball.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Double Up...Probably Tomorrow

Yeah, I'm behind. Slipping. Falling, even. But getting back up again, covered in orange dirt, ready to ground out. You know how I do.

Two game recaps are owed, and I also need to transcribe the set list from yesterday's Klezmer Sunsplash blowout in the bandshell. I know that one lady played "Yeidel Deidel," "I'm Trill," and "Gefilte Fish (East Coast Remix)," but the rest of my notes got all sweaty. Give me time, people.

Seriously, though, I just got an article assignment, which is good because now I can afford to buy a Metrocard next month. The bad news is that it's due tomorrow, so I kind of have to get on that. If I get it done today, you'll get an update today. If not, then not. Do not stare at that picture of The World's Only Living Sexosaurus (above, left) for too long, and I'll see you in a few.