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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, June 30, 2008

"Put me in Coach, I'm ready to play ..."

Like it or not, baseball is in my blood. I fancy myself an artist. Whether it be culinary, my writing, my glass work or music, I try to bring a finesse and personal touch unlike anyone else to my endeavors. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Yes there are those out there that are more talented, but I do what I do and it works.

I am fortunate to have immersed myself in a like minded community of artists and musicians who lead me to believe what I am doing has substance and worth. Perhaps people compare my work to Josh Simpson's because he is the only famous glass artist they know. Either that or they are uncomfortable trying to pronounce Chihuly (Shh-HOO-lee). Either way it is a compliment and I will take it. At the end of the day, whether or not I have been to the studio, done any writing or played my guitar, one thing will be there, the one component which will always bond my family - baseball.

Last week, my parents, my brother and his family, my daughter and myself, all piled into a rented 13 passenger van and headed west. Our destination was Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

My father, Garry Brown, is a sportswriter. He has been doing it for about 56 years. A major portion of those years have been spent covering the Boston Red Sox. He is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and the Baseball Writers Association of America. The latter membership means he votes on who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

One of the great treats of being so close to some one who has such an intimate look into baseball are the stories and memories which have accumulated over the course of the years.

Yaz in 1975

One of my favorite baseball memories was the time that Carl Yastrzemski was miffed about the way the umpire was calling balls and strikes. After striking out, in protest, Capt. Carl squatted down at the plate. Looking like a little kid who was playing in the sand at the beach, he grabbed a couple of good handfuls of dirt and covered home plate, obscuring it from view. I guess since the umpire was not using the plate as a guideline for how he was assessing the pitches, there was no need for the plate to be visible. Yaz was promptly ejected from the game, to the delight of the crowd.

Golden Brown next to Capt. Carl

Another Fenway memory involved the on field altercation between Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson. It was June 18, 1977. Rather than charge a fly ball, which was the product of a Jim Rice checked swing, right fielder, Jackson, let the ball drop for a base hit. He then made a bad judgment call by sending the ball back to the pitcher's mound, allowing Rice an easy, and undeserved double. Martin went out onto the field and pulled his star player for "not hustling." In the dugout, Martin had to be restrained from belting Jackson by Yogi Berra.

Another memory was from the 1975 World Series. The image of Pete Rose barreling around second base like a freight train and diving safely, head first into third will forever be etched into my brain. I saw one of Pete Rose's uniforms in the Hall of Fame. I can not recall seeing such an awesome player who approached the game with such fervor and reckless abandon. Sadly, his uniform's presence at the Hall of Fame will be as close as he will get to induction.

As I was carousing the plaques of those players immortalized in the Hall., I came across that of Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown. I guess he really did have three fingers, but this name was always a source of amusement, for me, as Red Sox hurler, Bill Lee would refer to his contemporary and gold glove winner, Sixto Lezcano as "Mordecai Six Toes Lezcano" What else would you expect from a pitcher who won a World Series game after downing a bottle of Robitussin.

Anyway, I was checking the plaques and I overheard a guy, clearly a Red Sox fan, telling his children the story of Eddie Gaedel. Eddie Gaedel was the only midget ever to appear in a major league baseball game.

Bill Veeck, the owner of the St. Louis Browns, was a marketing mastermind. In 1951, the season his team would go on to lose 102 games, Veeck employed the services of a midget - a local actor and showman named Eddie Gaedel to perpetrate the ultimate publicity stunt in baseball history.

On August 19, 1951, Gaedel signed a contract with Veeck for $100 per game. This contract was wired to the commisioner's office for approval, after the end of the day's business.

The crowd of 18,369 in attendance for the double-header against the Detroit Tigers was there more for the celebration of the 50th Anniversaries of both the American League and the Falstaff Brewery. The festivities included free beer and cake.

During the festivities, between games, Gaedel made his first appearance by jumping out of a cake suited up in a St Louis Browns uniform numbered 1/8.

In the following game, Frank Saucier, a Browns slugger was due up but had injured his shoulder earlier in the game. Gaedel was put in as a pinch hitter. The decision to play Gaedel was opposed by Detroit coach Red Rolfe but was finally approved by umpire, and Holyoke, MA native, Ed Hurley, as he surveyed a valid contract.

Detroit pitcher, Bob Cain was laughing uproariously as Gaedel crouched into his stance offering Cain a 1.5 inch strike zone. Cain, described as "almost falling off the mound with laughter" threw four balls - all high and Eddie Gaedel advanced to first base. Seeing as it took him almost a minute to reach first base, a few tips of the hat and some bows included, he was replaced by a pinch runner.

The baseball is bigger than the strike zone!

It was the only game Gaedel would play, as the following Monday, the Baseball commissioner voided Gaedel's contract and set new regulations pertaining to a minimum height for the start of the strike zone.

On a side note, Ed Hurley, the umpire officiating that game was talking to "a reporter" at Fenway Park toward the end of his career. He had been officiating baseball games at Fenway for over two decades. Beyond the grandstand, there was an advertisement painted on the side of a building for "Buck Printing."

Why an umpire, would ever admit such a thing is beyond me, but he leaned into the reporter and said, "All these years I thought that sign said Buick Printing."

Such is the world of baseball.

Now ... time to finish watching the Red Sox win 18-5, that is 18 runs folks, not games.

As Always you will find me ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"I picked up my bag and went looking for a place to hide ..."

There was a very vibrant and welcoming energy in the air on Saturday, a vibe not usually associated with such a rough and tumble silver town such as Muskrat Flats. As you know, if you keep up with my exploits, leaving the Flats often involves a Hard run. Not so yesterday. The carnival was set up in Muskrat Flats proper. It was an odd day where the natives co-mingled happily with the interlopers. They extended the olive branch of welcome to the tattooed and sparkle dusted tribes as they negotiated the once crumbling and rat infested pier, The barnacle crusted wooden effigy which would exude its sulfuric flatulence as low tide left it exposed to the sun is now replaced with a modern, easily navigable wharf, with a very nice tent where the music can be enjoyed.

The Tribes marched smiling into to town, with their glass beads, and patchouli soaked hemp accessories and various contraband. Heard above the music was the colorful patois you can only decipher if you have spent some time on the road, with the carnival. The vernacular was as colorful as their dress and as non conforming as their flapping unrestrained dreadlocks.

As always, behind the smile and the glazed eyes there was a plan, an escape strategy which would have to be implemented if the wrong pocket was picked, if the wrong custie was burned or if the seasoned and equally prepared constables finally decided enough was enough.

The cops were prepared, they had done this before, back in the day when it was a less family oriented scene. Now, the cops, just like the rest of the world, are faster. Armed with their two wheeled segways and the latest information technology in the palm of their hands, they are a formidable opponent. I haven't even discussed what type of God Awful weapons they possess these days.

The Deadheads remembered those days when they and the police were more or less on an equal footing. A few lies and some slight of hand often provided the necessary minutes to disappear into the scene and more so, high tail it out of Dodge. The Deadheads remembered the days when a hard run was in order. The days when the constables would steer their Harley-Davidsons five abreast down the main thoroughfare intending to run down any pitiful fool who lacked the good sense or sobriety to move. This was always a slap in the face as it put an end to the good times which were being had. The party was never quite over when the sense of self preservation kicked and the hard run commenced.

Saturday night, the tour kids, freaks, and Heads of all shapes, sizes and economic brackets shared in the party as they danced, sang and plied their wares and listened to the music. There were the classic hippie looking chicks with their patchwork skirts and flowers in their hair. There were the harder core tour kids with their dreadlocks and their omnipresent cases of glass pipes and jewelry. There were the Hippie/Raver kids with their Hot Topic gear accesorized with Shakedown Street chic wearing knee socks and multi-colored Chuck Taylors. There were the Hip Hop Hippie kids with their urban wear. There were the 50 year old Republican Heads with their $10 glasses of Pinot Grigio taking about "what a disappointment" George W. Bush turned out to be. There was the hot shot guitarist I have seen many times at the local venue , mesmerized by the chops displayed by multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell. The music flowed freely. And then there were the folks on the stage. They weren't all that different than those in the audience. They were having just as good a time as the concert goers.

Phil Lesh and his Friends were in town and He was joined by fellow troubadour Levon Helm.

It was a rejuvenating experience for me. You may say to your self, Paul Brown ... Mr Muskrat, What were you thinking? After all you are an addict - you got no biz associating with that crowd.

People Places and Things aside, I felt safe; much safer than I would have been had I stayed in Springfield ... alone. With my daughter off with her mother and my folks out of town, I really would have been in the worst company possible, alone with my thoughts. I was in mortal peril

There is credence to the idea that a Grateful Dead scene is probably not the best place to hang out of you have a problem with substance abuse and you feel vulnerable.

For a very long time. I was just like the rest of the population at the shows, drinking, smoking herb and if the feeling was right, getting ripped on LSD to provide for the most spiritual and transcendental journeys any living human can experience. For a long time this was the status quo, I was a weekend warrior working hard and playing hard.

Through circumstances which are too extensive to explain here, things began to unravel in my life. I put on a good mask and kept up appearances. But I was slowly succumbing to the progression of my dis-ease. I turned my back on my friends, and the scene which had provided me with so much positive spiritual energy over the last 20-plus years. I became isolated. My drugs of choice became more dangerous, more addictive and more expensive; too expensive to share, that is for sure. My gift of desperation was that I had very little left in my life other than a few material possessions a family I was rapidly alienating, a job and car I miraculously was capable of holding onto, and my drugs. It was me, alone - with my drugs.

As I cruised through the crowd, I kept my eyes wide open. There was weed being smoked every where, and yes I was tempted. There was even more alcohol. I spotted a couple of folks with scars and bruises on their arms which could not be explained away by saying they went to donate blood recently.

But none of that mattered. Because I was heading to an Oasis in a sea of insanity. At Phish Shows, this oasis was called the Phellowship. In my book about the fictitious jam band, PRY, the oasis is called the Priory. In the world of the Grateful Dead this safe haven is called the Wharf Rats. As you may recall, the Grateful Dead song "Wharf Rat" is a tale of a sick and suffering alcoholic named August West. He has what it takes, the only requirement ... the desire to stop.

You can find the Wharf Rats, a group of clean and sober concert goers, by looking for yellow balloons. As others stumble around, or are cranked up to 220 volts of psychedelic mayhem, we are standing in a circle with our backs to the insanity, protected by the strength of each other's shared experience and hope.

In the back ground, I heard,

"What's that?" a head referring to the circle.

"A bunch of fucking weirdos."

Yes, you could say that. I sure as shit used to. I was thankful for their perspective. The dismissive head probably would not have vocalized that opinion if he wasn't fucked up. Perhaps he shared the same sentiment that I had harbored for many years. I was respectful of what the Wharf Rats were trying to do, but I saw them as a threat to the lifestyle to which I had grown accustomed. They were, no doubt about it, a threat to my lifestyle. Back then I could not conceive living a lifetime free of drugs and alcohol. To this day, I still don't. That is why I have followed the suggestion to take it one day at a time. Worry about tomorrow when it comes. I doesn't seem so daunting to approach it that way. Stay clean just for today. Once you master that philosophy, you can try to wrap your mind around a statement that my Great-Grand-sponsor made.

"Don't forget, wherever you are, it is always today. At 12:59 PM you may think that tomorrow is right around the corner, but it comes and it is still today. "

I am thankful for all of the heads who stopped by the Wharf Rat table. We had a good meeting. It inspired me to get through the rest of the night. It inspired me to simmer down thoughts I had regarding the never ending occurrence of svelte and slinky 20 something hippie chicks dancing
freely and sexily in the row next to mine. That definitely makes me want to get high. The meeting helped to simmer down the lies my disease was telling me as a 60 something Obama supporter was casually sharing a joint with his wife.

Perhaps I could just smoke weed, and get away with it. If I got high, I know weed would not be good enough. I have lingered at the fence around the lush poppy field and tasted the nectar of the forbidden flower. No high will ever match the warm numbing feeling that is provided by opiates before you are enslaved by that feeling and the physical need for more. It is best that I just stay away.

No, I've been high more than half my life. I need to try it straight for a while and see what
happens. Good things, I suspect. Good things indeed. And definitely, more good music.

As always, You will find me ... Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today's Topic - Bring a Friend.

Hello Stuntfans - Thanks to all of you who made it to the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River Last weekend. The show was great. There were a lot of old familiar faces in the crowd and a few new faces.

One of these new faces belongs a Stuntfan to whom Stuntman Steve describes as a "State Fair fan. A new era of Drunk Stuntmen fan." This would be Bill Cyr. He professes to have seen the Stuntmen more than any other band. Welcome to the club, wish we had a vintage Soup shirt to give you for your efforts and dedication. By the way if you come to Hartford, bring a friend or two, or five. In fact that goes for all of you. It is bring a friend week - actually, it is bring a friend year. No, wait! This is the Bring a Friend Tour.

Another opportunity to see the Drunk Stuntmen is upon us folks. And what a perfect opportunity to help is fill the venue, by Bringing a Friend. The fellas are playing at Black Eyed Sally's in Hartford, CT, Saturday June, 14. Showtime is at 9:30 PM.

Now we play a lot of places that have food, but the food at Black Eyed Sally's is worth coming early and getting a table.

Hope to see you there.

State Fair, the latest and greatest album from the Drunk Stuntmen is available online at Barnes and Noble. If you really want to help us out, go to your favorite retailer and request that they order the album for you. Oh wait, you will need to order two, one for you and one for "your friend" who will be so enamored by the delightful and sincere musicianship that they may very well attend the next show, and bring a friend, as well.

Keep an eye out for the Young at Heart Chorus as they sing the National Anthem before the Red Sox game on June 21. The Stuntmen won't be there however, they are going to be in Haverhill roasting a pig.

Coming up in the next newsletter, the Roadhouse, Bourne, New August dates and why Stuntman Steve was disqualified from the 69th annual Polygamy Games in Muskrat Flats. The organizers didn't believe that the Young At Heart Chorus were ALL his Grandparents.

Stunts! Do 'em for your own self.


Monday, June 9, 2008

"Whatever you do, Take care of your shoes."

I did something totally spontaneous the other day. Spontaneity has been slowly disappearing from my life. I'll attribute that to a growing sense of responsibility as I continue to work on bettering myself.

Although I am not the type to rigidly schedule myself, down to the point of when I am doing laundry or what time I have allowed myself for an afternoon nap, my life has begun to have some structure, a routine if you will. Coming from a past where spontaneity would find me making a drunken decision to take some Orange Sunshine at 1 AM on a Friday morning, I welcome a little boredom.

LSD is bad ... mmmkay?

I do consider myself a "free spirit" or a "Beta" as my friend Freddy would call it. I do demonstrate Alpha characteristics occasionally, albeit a pretty lazy Alpha, if there is such a thing. Let's put it this way, I would probably do much better in life if I had a personal assistant, then again, who wouldn't? A "Gal Friday" or a "Miss Moneypenny" would fit the job description nicely.

I like the way things are going in my life these days. I have turned another corner in my road to recovery, once again rediscovering how easy it is to allow the insanity to rule your life. And that can happen without even picking up a drug. Lack of insanity lends itself to serenity, or at least an opportunity to spend some time in a boat on a smooth lake surface void of high winds or choppy waters.

The spontaneity, to which I refer was a change in plans on Saturday night. My daughter and I were supposed to go to Six Flags New England to take advantage of our newly purchased season passes. She was with her mom all day, and I had to work an extra hour to prep for some heavy duty catering on Sunday. This meant that by the time we arrived at Six Flags, we would have missed the opportunity to go to Hurricane Harbor, which would be closing about 45 minutes after our arrival.

"So, Daddy, I was thinking, I don't want ot go to Six Flags it is too hot, can I go swimming at Aunt Kathy's (her Mom's Aunt)"

"Sure, Honey. What do want to do tonight, after that?"

"I don't know ..."

"Wanna go to Fall River to see the Drunk Stuntmen it is an all ages show at 8 o'clock."

"REALLY!?" Sure, I thought why not, It is only a 90 minute drive. I had driven further in the past to see a band. Once I decided to make that trip, I felt different. It was not going to be just another mundane evening. I think I actually got goosebumps thinking about the possibilities of what the music might bring especially in a venue where my kid was welcome.

So, we went to Aunt Kathy's to hit the pool only to find a disappointing situation. The pool was pretty nasty littered with pollen and at least four dead tree frogs. My daughter kind of freaked out. She made an attempt to clean the pool up a bit, but in the end I think we both agreed that it would be best that she not go swimming in the festering murkiness. I firmly believe that if she did go swimming she would have gotten ill. I already had images going through my head spinning similar scenario's to when in the movie The Wall, the young Roger Waters type character found a rat and made a nest for it with his sweater, only to find the rat deceased a few days later. He disposed of the rat, put on his sweater and later found himself with a searing fever as Comfortably Numb accentuated the video back drop.

We bid Aunt Kathy, who was pissed that we thought the pool was gross, farewell and headed East. What seemed like minutes later, we were getting off at the Atwells Ave. exit in my old stomping grounds Providence, RI. We went down Federal Hill now rife with swanky upscale restaurants and bars with names such as Artini's. Federal Hill still had the character that it always had when I was going to school in Providence 20 years ago, it just wasn't as down and gritty as it used to be. It didn't seem like such an adventuresome and dangerous place as it used to be. It just doesn't seem like the Patriarca' s live there anymore.

If down and dirty were what I was looking for: it really wasn't, I just wanted to continue on my nostalgia trip, I sure found it as we went down the hill into Olneyville. It is a good thing I was with my daughter, because Olneyville is a haven for junkies, and hustlers and tricks. But that is not why we were there. Olneyville may have its share of n'er do wells, but it also has one of the most fantastic culinary treats ever devised. The New York System Hot Weiner.

These culinary delights are without a doubt the worst (wurst?) thing you can possibly put into your body. The weiners themselves probably have maybe 50% "meat" in them. I don't want to know what kind of fillers makes up the rest of the soft, spongy morsel. It could be sawdust, maybe even tofu, but most definitely it was some "class of beast" which has been put through a mechanical separator. The guy who is making them also adds a little flavor to the bun as he lines eight of these up on his sweaty arm before adding the rendered suet mystery meat with their own special seasonings, mustard and onions. Then with a flair and a flick of the wrist they are passed through a cloud of falling celery salt. I practiced some restraint and only ate 4 of them. My daughter loved them. I kind of felt bad exposing Rayna to such an aberration in proper nutrition, but the side trip was worth it and she enjoyed them, arm sweat and all. They are so damn tasty. It was definitely worth the side trip, even if it was in a section of town my disease would prefer, I remained.

After that, it was off to Fall River a short 25 minutes away. We crossed the bridge from Swansea and saw Battleship Cove. We took a wrong turn and had to pass the Lizzie Borden B&B, but we easily found Anwan St.

I won't spend too much time on the music, It was fantastic, the Narrows is a great place to see a show and its is highly recommended.

During the set, Stuntman Steve explained to the audience why he and Bow Bow were wearing flip flops. Okay, I didn't notice until then. Steve I could see wearing flip flops, even though he usually sports boots either construction or cowboy. But Bow Bow? He is a big imposing looking guy who looks like you would expect a bass player in a band called Drunk Stuntmen to look. The flip flops were way out of character for him.

It turns out they slept at a hippie's house the night before and some how managed to get back on the road without their shoes. Well, that is life on the road, I guess. At least they can rest assured that since they did leave their shoes at Chez Hippie, they don't have to worry about said hippie wearing them.

That story reminded me of a Phish show I went to at Hampshire College in the early 90s. The band was playing in the gym. Whoever produced the show printed tickets in the form of business cards, which weren't numbered. So, of course, day of the show there are about 500 more ticketed patrons in the show than the number of tickets had sold.

Part of the deal, since the show was in the new gym was that only stocking feet were allowed on the newly varnished basketball court. As you walked in, all you saw were piles and piles of random birkenstocks. How would they ever figure out that mess at the end of the show?

Further proving the statement from the Phish song Cavern, "Whatever you do, take care of your shoes."

Until we meet again, and hopefully it will be sooner than last time around, you will find me ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.