Herky the Hawkeye vs. the OSUMB

University of Iowa's mascot

When Iowa scores he flies around the end zone with his arms out.

To explain this properly requires some back story. My parents are from Ohio, my dad a proud OSU alumnus. They moved to Michigan before I was born. I grew up in Plymouth, rooting for the Buckeyes, and taking no small amount of grief for it. Coach John Cooper never gave me any chances to gloat.  During adolescence, my good friend Nick’s parents had season tickets at the Big House. They took me there to see UM/Notre Dame, and the Brown Jug game vs. Minnesota, and the Ohio State game where Tyrone Wheatley took apart the Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl bid, and the same story 2 years later authored by Biakabatuka. Only a young sports fan feels such sadness, though I saw some amazing contests back in the day. Players like Desmond Howard and Eddie George, at Spartan Stadium, Ohio Stadium, and Michigan Stadium.

An aside, the Notre Dame marching band has about 5 subaltern drum majors: baton guys in kilts, with tall fuzzy hats like the drum major, but a different color, perhaps. One of these poor lads lost his hat on the 20 yard line during the halftime show. Of course, there’s no stopping, so he rightly let it lie there and continued with the drill routine. After they had cleared the field, the fans all around us- Row 5 at the 10 yard line on the southwest corner- started chanting “HAT. HAT. HAT. HAT. HAT. HAT. HAT.” He ran out to get it, at which time he was booed mercilessly. As much as I yearned for the Buckeyes to beat the Wolverines, I did like it when the Wolverines beat Notre Dame, and when everyone danced the Bullwinkle in the 3rd quarter. Their helmets were brash but that cockiness held some kind of appeal. The Buckeyes had done nothing but wimp out in big games.

You could count on the OSU marching band to raise your spirits. They didn’t bother with woodwinds or color guard. 192 whip smart, rosy faced college kids that look sharp and turn quick. Silver instruments. Black shoes, white spats, black pants, white shirt, black tie. Black jacket with shoulder straps, red beret folded on right shoulder and white belts criss crossed over the chest. Military hat with plume. Theirs were the songs my parents taught me as a toddler.  (The Michigan fight song was full of curses -the only time I’d ever heard my folks say “motherfuckers.”)  Not even the Black Crowes call themselves “The Best Damn Band in the Land.” I was a big fan. When the Buckeyes scored a touchdown, among other celebrations, one of the sousaphone players would climb onto another’s shoulders. The guy runs back and forth across the end zone while the person on top flails a giant stuffed banana that says, “BEAT BLUE.” Everyone has their traditions.

I was deferred from the Literature, Science and Arts college at U of M, but I was accepted to the School of Music at Ohio State. In the fall of 1999 I moved into Baker Hall East. I was proud of myself, got up every day at 6:30 AM to hit the dining hall for breakfast and go to trumpet warm-up at 7:30. I was in the classical music performance program and thus we were not allowed to audition for the marching band. The professor was pretty strict. That was the same year that my dad’s work transferred him from Detroit to Columbus. He rented an apartment near his place of business, and commuted to our family home in Plymouth on the weekends, where my mom and sister remained while my sister finished high school.

My dad scored a ticket to the OSU/Iowa game that October 30. I had season tickets in the student section, so we met up at a tailgate, and figured out where each other were sitting. (In 1999 we didn’t carry mobile phones so we made plans and then would meet at an address at a specific time. Imagine it.) Sitting across the stadium from each other, me in the lower bowl and him in the upper deck, we spied each other through binoculars in the 2nd or 3rd quarter, stood up and waved. It was phenomenal to me that we happened to see each other at the same moment, so we stood there waving and laughing like dopes. The game continued.

By and by, Ohio State scored a touchdown. One sousaphone player climbed onto another’s shoulders and began swinging the banana while getting bounced across the field. (This is the part I meant to tell you about.) Iowa’s mascot, Herky the Hawkeye, was standing around, perhaps dejected about the imminent loss, when the celebrating sousaphone players rambled past. The banana man whirled the thing around a couple of times and WHOPPED Hercky on top of the helmet. Herky staggered around a bit before taking a knee. He was carted off by the medic, sans Hawkeye helmet, with an ice pack on his head.

What made it all the more enjoyable was meeting my dad afterward at the tailgate and discovering that he’d seen the whole episode. We laughed about waving at each other across the stadium and laughed even harder about Herky the Hawkeye (short for Hercules) getting whopped by the Beat Blue Banana and taking a knee.

At OSU home games my dad parks at the Fawcett Athletic Center. They have a cheap pre-game brunch buffet, and also host the away team’s supporters in a ballroom. We watched people come and go, silently wondering about the giant duffel bag that the Iowa cheerleaders were carrying. There were three well built young men and three young women with hair done up like Babs and Mandy from “Animal House,” going to and fro, taking pictures with fans. Then they disappeared. You can imagine our joy, standing at the bar, drinking our Yuenglings before the game, when Herky the Hawkeye barrels out of the bathroom and up the stairs with the cheerleaders in tow, ready to rile up the Iowa faithful in conference room B. We shouted, “it’s Herky the Hawkeye!” of course happy to see him back in action and remembering the fun times at Ohio Stadium, while scrambling for our phones.

Now that we have mobile web and social media, we had to post the pics right away, and that’s why I’m explaining my picture of Herky the Hawkeye on Facebook.

During my freshman year I found out my professor had gotten the job teaching trumpet at the U of Michigan, so I sent an audition tape and transferred. There were a few good sports years, then I spent the next decade rooting for Blue while they got beat by the likes of Appalachian State. My sister went off to MSU, and my parents had a new house in their old hometown. So you see, I’m not from Ohio- I was born in Wayne County. Funny enough, my sister and her husband found work down there, relocated, and had a baby. My nephew turns out to be a 9th generation Ohioan, rooting for the Spartans, growing up in Columbus. Does this explain why I love sports?

And Nick Anderson, if you’re reading this, drop a fella a line. Thanks for all those good times throwing paper airplanes out from the top bleacher during the boring games, and teaching me the proper lyrics and gestures so I knew what to do when I got here.

The Magical Fruit

I am having a profound experience fixing this pot of beans for my supper. As we all know, beans are the magical fruit. This is why we have the term, “holy frijoles.” The more you toot the better you feel. In this matter, beans are proven to be more effective than prayer. Furthermore, the old testament god was wrathful, just like some farts. Thus I liken flatulence to the Holy Spirit’s flaming tongue, speaking a language that all humans understand. I bet you can’t WAIT for my recipe.

1 cup dry black beans

2.5 cups water (I keep some water hot in the teakettle in case I need to add in process.)

I don’t use measurements beyond that, so use your discretion, or whatever.

Simmer for 45 mins. Add pinch of salt, liberal dashes of Worcestershire and Frank’s Red Hot, some butter, and more boiling water if necessary. Simmer 15 mins.

Add chopped onion and lots of chopped garlic, sprinkles of crushed red pepper, chili powder, cumin, Old Bay, Lowry’s seasoned salt, a tablespoon bacon fat, a tiny splash of olive oil, maybe a little more Worcestershire and Frank’s, and simmer 15-30 more minutes.

Then just do whatever you do with your beans. Tonight, I’m making nachos. Tomorrow I’ll probably put the rest in a quinoa casserole. I know I’m a horrible person. I’m contributing to the upheaval of Bolivia’s economy by driving up the price and taking this staple crop out of the mouths of farmers’ children. I don’t feel good about it. The fact of the matter is, I haven’t figured out how to make Minnesota organic wild rice taste anything close to delicious. The yellow corn tortilla chips I’m using tonight are inevitably genetically modified. Fiber, schmiber. Somehow each sacred bean has to be a prayer for forgiveness for the atrocities which our diets have wrought.

Also, FWIW, I make excellent nachos.

Review: Anna Ash, Matt Jones & the Reconstruction at Arborvitae

Setbreak on State Street

We shall ignore any conflict of interest that comes from musicians posing as journalists and reviewing their friends’ concerts. It’s no worse than a promoter becoming a radio DJ and plugging his own shows. Perhaps this is the gonzo perspective that mainstream music journalism lacks. Hopefully it means the scene is examining itself and becoming sentient, rather than chewing on its own tail.

Matt Jones and the Reconstruction came on stage promptly. In the cozy room Matt talked to the audience off-mic between songs, concerned with the stage volume but cracking jokes as usual. When I asked him if we’d get to hear some new music, Matt worried that they were biting off more than they could chew. They came with an appetite, though, for a buffet of rock and ragtime, with riffs reminiscent of the Stray Cats and Elvis Costello, sautéed in Knopfleresque tones. The songs are well crafted and rehearsed, effectively contrasting heavier hooks with Jones’ finger style stride guitar and voice. Greg Macintosh added dimension with woven counter-melodies on electric guitar, and Misty Lyn sung strong harmonies. It wasn’t apparent that she felt under the weather as she claimed. Serge Van der Voo on bass and Chad Pratt, drums, accessed wide dynamic range while maintaining the groove. The band only once overpowered the vocals, and that on purpose. The house sound system has taken a thumping over the years, and it’s difficult to get the vocals very crisp at volume.

One of our gracious hosts, VJ Trashpedal, projected “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” with analog tape manipulation on a screen behind the headlining band.

Meanwhile, Anna Ash took us on a drive down Highway 1 in a powder blue convertible, wearing overlarge sunglasses and chiffon scarves, on the longest morning of spring. It takes a long time to get where you’re going but you don’t ask “are we there yet,” because you’re kind of enjoying the ride. Christine Hucal played keys, Mike Shea, drums, Joe Dart, bass. Joe made us laugh out loud with his note placement when they started playing funk, dancing around Shea’s steady pulse like peek-a-boo.

The songs feel sunburnt like a Lake Michigan beach. One suspects they were informed by bird song and flowing water. Someone taught me the dance of the Haitian water goddess during the set. At a moment towards the end of the concert Anna hit an electrifying chorus, reaching the high soprano range, and my hair stood on end. The feeling is so rare that a person who spends a lot of time around music doesn’t often hope for it. It works best if you forget about it entirely, and then are taken by surprise. I don’t know what it is. I’ve been interested in it all my life. Is it chemical? Electric? Your skin flushes and hair stands on end and all space/time arrives in a moment, which is gone just as soon as it arrives. So the moment came, Anna sang something shattering, the moment passed, we sat in its afterglow, we revelled on into the rain.

Contributing author Brennan Andes summarizes. “Among friends it was easy to feel at home inside Arborvitae. This gathering is just another example of how the Ann Arbor music scene is and will always be a substantive place, even if in the subconscious of the people listening. Great American people, holding on to what’s right.”

What My Lips Feel Like After Three Sets

Like kissing a vise

Like rye whiskey

Like an old shoe

Mashed potatoes

Vinaigrette

Santa Claus’ Thanksgiving nap

Calves after a 10k

A Chadwick* that’s still cold

a pop tart

a flat tire

the taste of pennies

Ackley Ackley**

a burger at Miller’s bar

Buddy’s pizza

The Michigan-Ohio State game

an old 45

New Jersey

an elementary school gymnasium

Tulips in late June

onion rings

Smooches.

*Chadwick- a beer that’s been opened and subsequently abandoned while still mostly full

**Ackley Ackley- the food stuff that’s burnt on to the pan, like when you make fried eggs or nachos

Rules for Rock n Roll #3. Never Give Up

A pair of Thinsulate boots from Meijer wear the dust bunnies of summer’s disuse. I was embarrassed of them in 8th grade but now they’re the coolest. The blue rubber is faded with salt but still waterproof.

I’m distastefully fascinated by the motivational poster: the medium, the message, the platitudes, the smattering of comic sans, their spawn of internet memes, how they are occasionally helpful despite being annoying, redundant, fallacious or absurd.

Never EVER

Kitsch found a home in rock n roll. Rule #3.

I don’t know all the reasons for not giving up, and I can’t defend them here, anyway. I could never get far with Nietzsche. It’s a simple imperative like rule #1, which, I suppose is the exception. For the sake of procedure I’ll try to present some supporting evidence. Jerry Garcia said this: “You need music, I don’t know why. It’s probably one of those Joseph Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic and bliss, and power and myth, and celebration and religion in our lives and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.”

Never give up because

• John Lennon

• your grandma loved coming to your concerts

• major leaguers play 162 games in 186 days

On the other hand, you have W.C. Fields. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” However, he also said, “Who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?!” Wikipedia calls him a misanthropic egotist who was contemptuous of women, children and dogs, and he violated rule #1 of a stomach hemorrhage on Christmas Day. Therefore, I submit that his statement is inadmissible. He whom W.C. Fields calls a fool, Mike Tyson calls a champion.

$10 was somehow a justifiable expense for this masterpiece

My roommate is more of a, “live each day as if it were your last,” kind of guy, so he didn’t enjoy having this cross stitch in the living room. That’s understandable. I thought about it for a while, then decided the messages were approximately equal, if opposite, and that thinking about it made me dizzy. If that’s the paradox we must inhabit, then on with it. The important thing is that whether it’s the first day, the last day, or Tuesday, we don’t let the basterds grind us down. Take a nap, have a snack, take a walk around the block or hitchhike around Australia for a year if you need to get a fresh perspective, but never ever give up.

Rules for Rock ‘n Roll #2. Never Lose Your Shades

Hoxeyville, 2012

I believe it was Lollipop Man, alias the Long-Haired Sucker, who said, “Let me put my sunglasses on. That’s the law around here, you got to wear your sunglasses. So you can feel cool. Gangster lean.”

Supposing you were a resident of Olympus, the number one rule would be never lose your shades. It’s well known that the immortals party harder, and so suffer worse hangovers. Mixing mythologies and recalling the book of Enoch, it’s supposedly impossible to look directly upon the face of YHWH. Enoch was holy enough but we sinners need something to shield the radiation.

If you’ve been following along you’ll remember that Never Lose Your Shades is consigned to rule number two. I expect the reasons for its import are as obvious as the reasons for rule number one, but ten blind men fondling an elephant will disagree on its texture if they’re all touching different parts. So.

Whenever I have 500 miles to drive, I like to imagine that there is no such thing as a destination, that the road winds endlessly, and the night will last forever. Oz is a mirage- there is only yellow brick road. Actually, that’s a hallucination too. There is only Kansas. Ideally one has enough dopamine and serotonin in the system to power past the ennui of knowing that no matter how far we drive, we’ll never arrive anywhere. By eliminating the possibility of a goal, one can enter into the moment, the space of the road, and the act of driving. It becomes delightful at that point. If Parliament isn’t a scholarly enough reference, may I direct you to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who coined the term “flow,” to mean energized focus and an enjoyable immersion in a process. My experience of it has been through music, exercise, or in this case, night driving.

The fuel needle drifts left and despite how it seems for a moment we are not alone on a dark planet. People who’ve had 7 hours of stationary sleep emerge with the light. The graveyard shift terminates at a truck stop. At such a time, a pair of sunglasses is as important as earplugs are to someone who stands next to the cymbal player, as a dust mask is to someone sanding away old paint, or as condoms are to- suffice to say, always be prepared, and always use protection. Hearing loss is cumulative.

I need a pair of sunglasses the way Linus needs his blue blanket. It’s possible to live without it, but that life is rude, harsh and cold. On the morning of your 21st birthday you might have noticed that acetaldehyde reacts to daylight more violently than baking soda to vinegar. Without your shades you’ll simply wither, darling. You must allow the sun to warm the skin without harming the skull.

Shades are the olive branch in the beak of the dove.

This is the first time I’ve ever followed first person accounts of a natural disaster in real time over social media. It’s compelling. They don’t put sunglasses on the list of emergency supplies because there’s no need. The well informed citizen might run out of potable water, D batteries or white gas for the camp stove, but knows that the night will pass and so will the storm, and when that happens one had better not run out of sunglasses.

The Rules of Rock ‘n Roll, (Installment One in a Series)

1. Don’t die.

I didn’t make up these rules. I will relate them as they were told to me. I’m not here to tell you what they should mean to you. You’re pretty much on your own to figure out a sense of morality. I mostly can’t make heads nor tails of it. This is just for laughs.

The number one rule in rock ‘n roll is don’t die. You can’t play rock ‘n roll if you’re dead. The Macpodz have a song fragment that occasionally arises in one jam or another, the lyrics of which are, “You can’t die if you’re already dead.” This is true, and is sometimes why rock ‘n rollers act the way they do. Because of the driving, the shows, the afterglows, floor sleeping and diner food, our senses were so abused that how bad could it be? We simply must already be dead and each chance to play rock n roll is a chance to get alive.

This attitude can result in carelessness. Feeling sub-human, or a super-human, depending on your particular combination of exhaustion or adrenaline, isn’t a good state from which to make decisions. The best you can hope for is to not have to make any decisions, and ride out whatever energy you have to get whatever job at hand done. Drive, load, play.

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of figuring out who can drive. One spring we had a gig in Chicago, where the bars are open until 4 AM. Chicago is one time zone west of our hometown. It’s in your favor when you’re heading west- you plan to get there at 7 PM and suddenly it’s six o’clock. When the gig is over and you’re standing in a parking lot with nowhere to stay, you account for that hour, and that it also happens to be spring ahead, daylight savings time. As the windshield defrosts we realize it’s 7 AM in Ann Arbor. If we get a move on, we’ll be home by noon, and the whole day won’t be shot. Some of the guys can sleep in the back of the van. The question then becomes, who can drive? I can drive. I had something to drink, but before the show. I had smashed a tube steak with onions and relish at some point. Max slept in the van while we were playing, though. He’s fresh. I’ll ride shotgun and keep the iPod and the banter going. We’ll stop in Gary for gas, coffee and jumping jacks. It’s a crisp Sunday morning and we are good midwestern boys heading home for a quiet brunch. Keep the blood moving and the mind focused and everyone will be safe. Keep it between the lines. Remember rule number one.

We had played on the north side. Max wove us out to Lakeshore Drive. The sun glistened off the lake and the buildings. We quietened with the road noise and the new day. The sleeping hulk of Chicago shone on the icy shore.

Just after we had merged from the Stevenson Expressway on to the Dan Ryan we saw a passenger conversion van smashed into the overpass on the far shoulder of the westbound lanes. The front end was stove in flat, the back doors busted open, and a yellow drum set spilled all over the side of the highway. It was a band of Wisconsin boys heading home from a late gig. The accident was so fresh the sirens weren’t there yet. Max and I looked at one another with wide eyes, but didn’t speak. He gripped the steering wheel.

We had an assistant manager who helped us with internet marketing way back when MySpace was still kind of a thing. He made some podcasts of our music, made a couple of video shorts to put up on YouTube. He designed the early versions of “Disco Forest” imagery for our website, which became a common theme at the festivals we were playing. I’m not saying we invented it, but that it’s the aesthetic we were digging at the time. It was in the ether. “Lawnboy” could be a bit of a nut, but he really believed that we were doing something right, and that he could create some opportunities through internet marketing and facilitate communication within the group. He had the right idea.

He was troubled, though, and we failed to see it. We were wrapped up in our own dreams and dramas. We spoke with him over the phone and internet, and at intermittent shows. None of us knew how much despair he felt. One night he washed down painkillers with whiskey, and died in his sleep. At the time, his newborn twins were 4 months old.

You don’t have to go down in a helicopter crash. There are a lot of ways, and it wouldn’t serve any purpose to list more here. The fact of the matter is that dying is a direct violation of the number one rule of rock n roll, and you have to watch your ass pretty close to avoid all the situations that could get you dead. Swimming in cold water drunk at dawn is a pretty common one that worries me. It feels great to swim naked and I think it’s one of our fundamental human rights. To that end, we should use the buddy check system, or something, to fend off cases of hypothermia. That reminds me of the time I nearly passed out from heat exhaustion at Summer Camp, but I’ll tie that in to some other episode. I’ll try to post with some consistency on Tuesday mornings. Remember rule #1 and keep rocking. You are loved very much.

Love & respect to all the rule breakers and those that abide in their absence.

7AM eastern time on the day of Spring Forward, 2010

The road banked to the left, which reminded us of Rule #2. Never lose your shades