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The “High Five” with very little connection to Billy, Wyatt, and Bat

Bat_Masterson_1879

Bat Masterson

A few interesting items about some rock stars of the Old West : Billy the Kid was born in New York City, Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles and the great Bat Masterson (Indian Fighter, Buffalo Hunter, Gambler, Gunman, Fight Referee and Lawman) was the sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph.

“There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours.  I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets ice in the winter, things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.”    These were the words typed in Bat’s typewriter when he was found slumped over dead from a heart attack in the New York Morning Telegraph newsroom.

What does this have to do with the “High Five?”  Very little, except that there is little doubt that Billy, Wyatt, mlb_burke_card_200and Bat never used the High Five after dispatching a deserving bad guy and putting him six feet under, because the High Five  was invented by the great Glenn Burke in 1977 ( Great? Batting avg .237,  Hr 2 ,  RBI 38 ).  Glenn was a Major League Baseball player for the Dodgers and Oakland A’s from 1976 to 1979 . Burke was the first and perhaps only Major League Baseball player known to have acknowledged his homosexuality to teammates and management and the first to do so publicly.  Burke’s association with the Dodgers was a difficult one.  According to Glenn’s 1995 autobiography “Out at Home,” Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis

Spunky Lasorda

Spunky Lasorda

offered to pay for a lavish wedding and honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married.  He declined.  Glenn also angered manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager’s gay son Tom “Spunky” Lasorda Jr., who died in 1991 at the age of 33.

300x200_hifive2

The original High Five

In 1977 Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Dodger teammate Dusty Baker after Baker hit his 30th home run in the last game of the regular season.  Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from 3rd base.  Not knowing what to do about the raise hand, Baker slapped it. They have been credited with inventing the High Five.  After retiring from baseball, Burke used the High Five with other gay residence of the Castro district of San Francisco, where it became a symbol of gay pride .

yearbookAn article published in Inside Sports magazine in 1982 made Burke’s gay life public knowledge.  After baseball, Burke turned to drugs and alcohol which destroyed him both financially and physically.  He was repeatedly arrested for alcohol and drug offenses and lived on the streets of San Francisco.  On May 30th,1995 he died of AIDS complications.  He was 42 years old.

Shark-Give-me-High-five

Shark High Five

So now when you drop your little son Timmy off at soccer practice and he is greeted by Lance, his young coach, there are no longer awkward moments of overly hearty handshakes or prolonged hugs.  Just a gratifying “High Five” and you are OK with that and so is Timmy, Lance, and I am sure Glenn is OK with that too.   Groove.

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Rum makes a fine hot drink, a fine cold drink, and is not so bad from the neck of a bottle…Fortune magazine 1933

The Villa de Sergie

The Villa de Sergie

I love rum. My taste for the sultry fluid started many years ago when I was a guest at the Villa De Sergie, a magnificent abode filled with uncommon treasures, down in Puerto Vallarta where Daiquiris were blended with 108414-343x500-Classic_frozen_Daiquirideft hands to create a superbly delicate compound as a prelim liquid that would send us off into the evening. Rum, which is the pillar of Daiquiris goodness, is a dangerous agent which bows to the power of a contemptuous indifference to fate, sets the mind and body free of responsibility, obliterating memory of today and tomorrow, gives an adventurous feeling of superiority, vanquishes all fears and doubts, and in some cases allows the consumer to change his name, or at least add a new one.  Could a liquid be any finer ?

My favorite rum concoction is not the Mai Tai, Planters Punch, the Zombie, the Kid Fizz or the Mojito – though it will be a cold day in hell when I deny myself the pleasure of throwing any of these down, though the sweetness of these tropical drinks reminds me of Donny and Marie concert. My favorite is the straight Anejo Barcardi rum and soda water with 3 limes. This cocktail has many names such as the La Fonda, the Oh How We Danced, and the  Los Mismos. The later name came from Cuba in 1899 when the drink swept both Cubans and Americans off their feet at the fabulous Cosmopolitan club when one Cuban customer ordered a Bacardi and seltzer and his buddy said  “Lo Mismo” which is to say “the same” in Spanish. The Americans, eager to try something novel, also ordered “Lo Mismo”, found it much to their liking and ordered round after round of Mismos and brought the drink

The Las Rocas pool

The Las Rocas pool

back to stateside. I personally discovered it while touring with the Great Diego Despues down south of the border looking for venues that could handle the raucous ways of The Nick Talent Full Throttle Wide Open Golf Tournament. Sipping our Mismos, over looking the pool of the Las Rocas Hotel which was filled with fun and danger, we both agreed that we had found our venue and found our drink. For the next twenty years we made history.

Old-Rum-BottleGrog, which is basically rum diluted by water with occasional citrus to prevent scurvy, is associated with the bad boys of the seas: Pirates. But in reality, Grog came well after the Happy Days of the likes of Capt. Morgan, Blackbeard, and other pirates.  In 1740, the British Navy would issue a daily dram of grog as a moral booster to the swabs and it was unknown what was the strength of the concoction. The Sikes hydrometer, which measured alcohol content, was invented in 1816, but prior to that the alcohol content was determined by mixing the spirit with a few grains of gunpowder then subjecting the grog to the focused rays of the sun under a magnifier. If the gunpowder managed to ignite, but the liquid didn’t flare up, this was “proof” of its proper alcohol content.  Even diluted, the grog ration was the equivalent to about five cocktails per day and by the 1950s only a third of the British sailors took advantage of their grog tot.  As naval operations became more PirateRum-1complex with computers and missile systems, the daily grog rations made less sense than when all the sailors had to do was haul around  buckets of tar. Finally, on July 31, 1970, what is known in British naval circles as Black Tot Day, the final ration was given to the British sailors. With black arm bands, heavy hearts, and a 21 gun salute – the Grog rations were over after 325 years.

Now Rum comes in “Jolly Rancher” like flavors with the marketing pointed to the youth of America, which at best is a disturbing trend. One out of every 3 bottles of rum sold is one of those sickly sweet artificially flavored nightmares with “tropical” counterfeit  flavors such as mango, pineapple, and banana which has as much in common with “tropical” as Glade air freshener does with an Alpine meadow.

images-1Capt. Morgan rum is the number 2 rum in the world (Bacardi number 1) which accounts for one-third of the billion dollar rum market. It was introduced in the U.S. all the way back in 1949 by Seagrams and is now owned by Diageo which is the largest producer of liquior in the world. Other Diageo brands include the best selling vodka in the world Smirnoff, the two top Scotches Johnnie Walker and J&B , the leading stout Guinness, and the number 1 liqueur Baileys Irish Creme. The ten largest producers of booze in the world own 70% of all liquor brands and that concentration is sure to rise.

Let us remind ourselves that rum needs to be consumed if we want to advance as a society and I take this position as a volunteer to lead, drink, and travel the seven seas to spread its word.  I am a tippler who among sailors, bridge builders, spreaders of all imagespleasant forms of lark, soldiers of good fortune, marauding beserkers, priests, and other disreputable sorts, promise to spread the groove of rum wherever needed. Like right now.  Remember, if everyone follows the rules, in the end it will lead to chaos.  So drink more rum, break more rules – otherwise chaos will reign. Groove.

Again I stole this material from a wonderful book called  “And a Bottle of Rum” by Wayne Curtis which was given to me by my sister Goldie who I have known personally for 60 years. What a gal! (something our Dad would say)

America Is The Only Country That Went from Barbarism to Decadence Without Civilization In between (Oscar Wilde)

1341885008_realitytvbreakups-15Couples, duos, partners, odd friendships. There have been plenty bizarro ones, some good and some bad.  I don’t mean like Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen bad and I don’t mean like Hall and Oates good (though I never appreciated comments of my similarities to John Oates…. Please…John is 5 ft 4 “, that is 1.64 meters for our metric friends and I am at least 8 centimeters taller.)  No, I am talking about ones that don’t easily come to mind  – like the Liberal Lion, Senator Ted Kennedy, and the Conservative Elk of the Rockies, Mormon Senator Orrin Hatch; American showman Buffalo Bill and the flamboyant Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde;  and the McDonald’s buddies, the Hula burger and the Filet-O-Fish.

Ted Kennedy was red faced and yelling at the top of his lungs.  Orrin Hatch pounded the Senate desk and waved histh finger at Kennedy in vitriolic disgust.  Then the time for debate expired and the two combatants shook hands and exchanged jokes.  Their laughter echoed in the chamber as they walked out slapping each others backs.  Thus was a typical day for Washington’s odd couple which ended with Teddy’s death on August 26th, 2009 of brain cancer.  You could not come up with more opposites: Ted Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts, patriarch of one of America’s most powerful families, hard boozing, often embroiled in scandal, Harvard educated, and the shining star of liberalism.  Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah, mormon, super conservative, non drinker, non smoker, attended what he called the “Harvard of Utah, BYU”, and a pillar of the Conservative movement.  The press watched closely as these two titans argued, often compromised, and made many laws, as the two became unexpected best of friends.  “One of my motivations for coming to the Senate was to fight Ted Kennedy”, Hatch said.  In fact, Hatch said that to say Kennedy’s name was my very th-1best fundraiser in the country, noting they were antagonists for years.  Back in the day you were  allowed to smoke during committee hearings and according to Hatch you could tell when  the two were  fighting by the amount of cigar smoke that Kennedy blew in the direction of the nonsmoking Mormon.  He said they were forced to change in 1981 when Hatch became chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and Kennedy was the ranking Democrat.  Kennedy said the two found they often wanted the same general end results and they actually admired each other and their families.  Orrin sat with the Kennedy family when they buried the Kennedy matriarch Rose and Ted sat with the Hatch family when Orrin’s th-4parents passed away.  Orrin wrote songs for Ted’s second wedding and his funeral (one of Orrin’s songs is on the soundtrack for the movie Oceans 12). Orrin gave one of the many eulogies at Ted’s funeral and with a shaky voice he finished by saying “I deeply morn this great man and I will miss my Irish friend.”

th-6William Frederick (we share similar facial hair and same first 2 names) “Buffalo Bill” Cody and  Oscar Fingal O’ Flahertie Wills Wilde (we share nothing) could not be more different and are another example of history’s odd couples.  Buffalo Bill was the real deal: Army scout (won the “Medal of Honor” before Congress changed the rules in 1917), Pony Express rider, wagon train driver, Freemason, buffalo hunter, fur trapper, gold prospector, showman, started the town of Cody, Wyoming,  was good friend with Wild Bill Hickok and according to historical novelist Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Last Picture th-10show, Brokeback Mountain) Buffalo Bill at the turn of the 19th to 20th century was the most recognizable celebrity in the world.  Oscar Wilde: Flamboyantly gay Irish playwright, novelist (The Picture of Dorian Gray), poet, Freemason, known for his barbed and clever wit, spent 2 years in the “Big House” in England  for being convicted of “gross indecency” – the term for homosexual acts in contemporary British legislation,  was the most successful playwright of the late Victorian Age, and one of the great celebrities of his day.

Five years before Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Oscar came to America to lecture on Aestheticism and the Decorative arts. He saw Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and became a fan and a friend of Buffalo Bill.  Oscar’s fame as the Oxford-articulated, effete intellectual allowed him to book nearly 150 engagements from New York City to Leadville, Colorado where a mine shaft was named in his honor (called The Oscar), and he was dropped by bucket deep into the shaft. Wilde said he hoped shares where included with the honor and to the surprise of the rough and tumble miners, he smoked cigars and drank their whiskey till morning light and was declared “a bully-boy with no glass eye”.  It was speculated that Wilde’s success in America may have prompted Bill’s Wild West Show to go to England.  On Bill’s impending visit Wilde wrote a piece called “the American Invasion” and wrote that “English people are always more interested in American Barbarism than American Civilization …The cities of America are inexpressively tedious…Better the far West with its Grizzly Bears and untamed Cowboys…This is what Buffalo Bill is going to bring to London; and we have no doubt that London will fully appreciate the show!”

Wilde introduced Cody to Henry Irving, a great actor in England and it was through Irving that Cody came to know the British Royals. It wasth-5 also through Irving that Cody’s credibility was enhanced above the stature of a circus-master and the avalanche of invitations from British nobility and the upper echelons of the art world poured in Buffalo Bill’s direction. Cody was also an object of jealousy by Irving’s alleged lover Bram Stoker who would go on to write Dracula. Over the next several years, Wilde’s star rose as did Cody’s.

It would be interesting to know what old Bill thought of Oscar’s trial for homosexuality and his subsequent conviction.  It started when he wildeanddouglasbecame seriously involved with Lord Alfred Douglas, whose Dad was the Marquess of Queensbury (yes, boxing fans, the guy who came up with the ” Queensbury Boxing” rules)  Anyway, the Marquess didn’t dig Oscar hanging out with his son Alfred even though Oscar was married with 2 sons (the English Way).  Lawsuits were filed, back and forth, and O was sure his fame would protect him. Nope, 2 years in prison and as you might suspect, prison did not serve Oscar well. Friends turned their backs, his wife changed her name, and Oscar died in obscurity in 1900 at the age of 46.  One of his last lines were ” My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”  Wallpaper wins again.

th-7Bill’s life worked out much better. He continued the Wild West groove and eventually wound that down. Didn’t really “Leave on top,” but pretty close. Died of kidney failure in 1917 at the age of 70. Upon his death tributes were made by King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and  President Woodrow Wilson.  Much better than battling it out with some wallpaper.

When Lou Groen opened the first McDonald’s in the Cincinnati area in 1959 business was tough especially come Lent.  The area was 87% Catholic and on Fridays he would bring in a total of about $50-$75 which wasn’t covering expenses. So Lou came up with idea which he stole from the local Bob’s Big Boy of putting a piece of deep fried halibut and a piece of cheese between a couple of hamburger buns. Lou decided to take it to corporate. Back in those days it wasn’t difficult to get in front of the main man of McDonalds, Ray Kroc and Ray, being Ray, wasn’t pleased with Lou’s sandwich. “You’re always coming up here with a bunch of crap” he told Lou. ” I don’t want my stores stunk up with the smell of fish.” Anyway, I have a much better idea. It’s called the Hula Burger.”filet062  This was Ray’s brilliant idea of the meatless burger, just grill a piece of pineapple, throw on a piece of cheese, squeeze it between two buns and there you have it. After much arguing Kroc decided they would put the two together on the menu at selected locations on Good Friday 1962 and whoever sold the most would stay on the menu.  Final tally: Hula Burger 6, Filet-O-Fish 358. So the Fish stays and the Hula is forgotten. They also tried for a mascot, Phil A. O’Fish, but like the Hamburgerlar, Phil was put to rest.  Now Mac’s sells 300 million Filet-O-Fish a year with 23% sold during Lent. In the eyes of some it was sad to see the Hula Burger and the Filet  break up, but one had to go.

I know all those sayings about the road to success (It’s not what you know, but who you know…or It’s not about who you know, but who knows you), but suffice it to say, I’d rather be sitting here with a cocktail watching the sun go down then humming an Orrin Hatch tune, eating a Hula burger, and getting into a knife fight with the wallpaper.   Groove.

Slippin’ On Your Travelling Shoes

th-15Travel…   I like to travel. Usually it’s a place with a great beach (Hawaii, Mexico) where my only decisions are whether to go into warm water or have another cocktail (usually the arrow points to the latter).  This is a very narrow view of the world, but has afforded me wonderful conversations with alleged heretics, blockade runners, utopian community leaders, scary men with dark initiatives, victims of shipwrecks, seedsmen, and midnight ramblers. Some of which I call my friends.

The word travel derives from the French word travail, meaning toil. Only in recent centuries has traveling come to be regarded as a recreational pursuit.  I don’t like to ” toil” and I don’t like to “pursue” unless it is for

a warm water beach and an excellent cocktail – so maybe a traveller I am not, but these following fellows surely are: John Ledyard, Richard Halliburton, and Duncan Hines (yeah, that Duncan Hines).  All three have travelled different paths, some with larger legacies than the others.

thJohn Ledyard was born in Connecticut in 1751.  Quit Dartmouth so he could “ramble more”.  Joined up with Capt. James Cook in the British Navy and saw the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, was the 1st US citizen to touch the western shores of the United States, toured Alaska, then the Bering Sea, back to Hawaii where Cook ran a foul with some of the natives and was stabbed to death, then all the way back to England.  Then on to Paris, where he conceived a bold scheme of exploration with the then American Ambassador to France, Tommy Jefferson, and was backed with dough from the Marquis de Lafayette, on a mission to explore the American continent by proceeding overland through Russia, crossing the Bering Strait, head south through Alaska, then across the American west to eventually Virginia. That is a lot of walking especially on a solo.  Sometimes I have trouble getting out of my chair and walking to the bar.

Well, Johnny didn’t make it. Went as far as eastern Siberia where he was arrested as a suspected spy on orders from  Cathy the Great and sent back to Poland, then eventually to London where he decided to walk from the Red Sea to the Atlantic ocean. Things don’t always work so well for some of those ramblin types and it didn’t work out so well for Johnny. While in Cairo, he accidentally chugged some sulfuric acid and did the big burnout from within (never a good way to go).  John Ledyard was buried in the shifting sand dunes lining the Nile, the location of his grave unknown today. Ledyard was described as a “mad, dreaming romantic” who in his day travelled to five different continents under the “common flag of humanity “.  This guy went the road less travelled and might have gone further if he laid off the sulfuric acid cocktails.th-2

Richard Halliburton was of the dashing sort. Very famous during his days, Richie made travel writing exciting with his globe trotting antics and dare devil deeds.  Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1900, a well bred upbringing and the soft comforts of home could not contain him. “Youth– nothing else worth having in the world…and I have youth, the transitory, the fugitive, now, completely and abundantly. Yet what am I going to do with it?  Certainly not squander its gold on the commonplace quest for riches and respectability, and then secretly lament the price that had to be paid for these futile ideas. Let those who wish have their respectability – I want freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice strikes my fancy, freedom to search in the furthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” And Indulge he did.

th-7Halliburton rode an elephant over the Alps (he named her Miss Elysabethe Dalrymple), flew a crimson red bi-plane upside down over the Taj Mahal (he called his plane the Magic Carpet), dove into the cursed Mayan Well of Death in the Yucatan, swam the length of the Panama Canal (was charged a $0.36 fee), lived on Devils Island, enlisted in the French Foreign legion, took the chief of Dyak headhunters for a ride in his plane and received a gift of 100 shrunken heads for his effort, was the first to climb Mount Fujiyama in midwinter, had a long affair with screen idol Ramon Novarro, built a glass and concrete house above Laguna Beach called ” the Hangover house” in the 1930s which is stillth-5 there today, climbed the Matterhorn, and wrote about all his exploits in travel books and magazines which made him quite wealthy.

On March 3rd 1939 Halliburton began to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. The Sea Dragon was a th-8gaudily decorated 75 ft.ship that looked better than it floated, and was more properly suited for a ride at Disneyland than challenging the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Hong Kong in route to San Francisco with a crew of 7, the “Dragon” ran into a typhoon. ” Southernly Gales…Rain Squalls…Leeward Rail Under Water…Wet Bunks…Hardtack Bully Beef…Having Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here Instead Of Me.” were the last words coming from the  Sea Dragon. The search turned up nothing. Richard Halliburton and crew had disappeared under the waves.  He was 39 years old.

Duncan Hines was a road weary traveling salesman who worked for a Chicago printer. By 1935 and at the age of 55 th-13Duncan had eaten a lot of good and bad grub across the US of A. Old Dunc and his wife Flo began assembling a list for friends of good restaurants around the country which became so popular he put the recommendations in a paperback and called it ” Adventures in Good Eating”. One such listing in 1939 read: Corbin, KY, Court and Cafe, open all year except Xmas 24 hr. service Sizzling Steaks, fried chicken, country ham Lunch $.50-$1.00 Dinner $.60 -$1.00  Good Eats ! Duncan claims he traveled 2 million miles across this great land and the phrase ” Recommended by Duncan Hines” became something to strive for. He started a newspaper article called ” Adventures in Good Eating at Home” with recipes acquired from the best restaurants he enjoyed. He even introduced Duncan Hines Bread to the world through the Durkee’s Bakery. Hines sold the rights to his name which was eventually bought by Proctor and Gamble. He never pretended to be a cake dude , but enjoyed the accolades of the most moistness of all the cakes. Big D died of the Big C at the age of 71.

th-18Moist cakes, shrunken heads, and sulfuric acid cocktails are all a big reach for me.  Now a traveller maybe I’m not, but I like three limes with my Anejo Rum and soda, warm water at my feet, and a good sunset. I sit having the docility of an old Springer Spaniel and in these days I am less excitable just more preoccupied. In  my tiny narrow view of the world – the world for the most part, is a beautiful place.  For me, these days, it’s perhaps more appreciated than trampled upon.  Groove.

Everyone Loves Stan

thAnyone  who has ever watched television has to groove on Richard Wayne “Dick” Van Dyke.  The guy is 87 years old, looks like a million bucks (ok…maybe $100 grand), is married to a 39 year old,th-10 was a news anchor at the ” CBS Morning News” in 1955 and Walter Cronkite was his reporter, is an honorary member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, appeared on an album with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, lived with Michelle Triola (who famously battled Lee Marvin in the “palimony ” case Marvin v. Marvin) for more than 30 years (not sure that’s a good thing), has had a career that spans 7 decades, th-2and claims in 2010 that  he was rescued at sea by a pod of porpoises (apparently they loved Dick’s version of ” Chim Chim Cher-ee ).

Like many great comedians, Dick’s idol was Stan Laurel of the great comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.  After Oliver Hardy’s death in 1957th-6 (something that friends say Stan never recovered from), Stan moved into the second floor of the Oceana oceana_5Apartments in Santa Monica (now the swank boutique Oceana Hotel on Ocean Blvd.)  There Stan would entertain a long list of admirers such as Peter Sellers, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye,  Marcel Marceau, and of course Dick Van Dyke.  Stan was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1961 and was offered a cameo role in it’s a Mad , Mad , Mad , Mad World (1963), but couldn’t bear to be on any stage without his partner Oliver (Babe) Hardy.

In 1965 Stan suffered a major heart attack and while minutes from death he told his nurse he would not mindth-4 skiing right at this moment. Somewhat taken back, the nurse replied that she wasn’t aware that he was a skier.  “I’m not, but I’d rather be doing that than this!” A minute later he died sitting in his armchair.

At his funeral, comedian Buster Keaton said ” Chaplin wasn’t the funniest, I wasn’t the funniest, this man here was the funniest .”  Dick Van Dyke gave the eulogy and was rewarded with Stan’s bowler hat by Stan’s wife. Dick th-7said that Stan told him “if anyone at my funeral has a long face, I’ll never speak to him again.”  Stan Laurel was 74 years old.

Comedy lightens our load and allows us not to take ourselves too seriously. So go throw a pie in someone’s face, give someone a hotfoot, and slip on a Mr. Bean movie.  Make sure it’s not my face, not my foot, and not at my house.  I wouldn’t find it funny.  Groove.

The Man Who Would Be King…of Abalonia

whiskey-on-the-rocksI think having a drink with someone is important and should be done frequently.  Sometimes you need to have 3 (I haven’t forgotten you Nelson), but the number is only important when you consider who is across the table from you.  Good stories usually dribble out – sometimes tales of bad behavior, sometimes delicate dreams that held sway in longing hearts that were then torn asunder.  Perhaps a combination of truth and lies from the hidden caves of misery or the joyful fountains of happiness.  Or it could mean being drowned in a torrent of repeated endless jabber by one who is over-served and your only wish is for some terrible medical emergency to envelope this person or at worst, envelope yourself.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood, Jr.  Not because Joe and his Dad (Joe Sr.) became the first father / son to make the cut at the US

Open Golf Championship in 1948.  Not because Joe starred in eleven “Joe Palooka” films and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood because he tried to build his own country on top of a shallow seamount  100 miles directly west of San Diego called Cortes Bank.  The Bank rises from a depth of more

Joe Palooka

Joe Palooka

than a mile, up to the shallowest peak, called Bishop Rock, a mere 3-6 feet from the surface depending on the tide.  It is here where some of the biggest waves on earth, some 60′, 70′, 100′ high, rise from the depths and it is here where Joe wanted to sink a 334 ft. concrete ship weighing five thousand tons, surround it with huge boulders from a quarry in Ensenada, and become King of the country of Abalonia.  Joe and his pals were nation builders and what is amazing is not that these Founding Fathers of Abalonia failed, but how close they came to succeeding.  Sit down Joe, I’m buying.

Joe and his confederates assembled at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach on Nov.13th, 1966 and were ready to shove off.  Joe showed up in pressed pleated khaki trousers, a cashmere sweater, and a pair of fur apres-ski boots. Perfect wear for sinking a ship, placing boulders in the middle of the ocean, and declaring your throne.  There were 3 ships involved: the concrete 334 ft. Jalisco which was being towed by tug to Cortes Bank from San Francisco after being purchased for $80,000, the Rainbow’s End which was the center of communication control, and the Polaris which was given the job of coordinating the five barges of large boulders being brought up from Ensenada.  The general plan was to scuttle the Jalisco atop Bishops Rock in shallow water and surround the ship with ever expanding rings of boulders so she could be used as a seafood processing factory.  Joe and his crew figured that international maritime law would allow them to become the rulers of their own nation because Cortes Bank was in international waters.

As the strange flotilla was trying to gather, Kirkwood’s plan hit the news and drew the attention of the city San Diego, the U.S. Army Corpsth-9 of Engineers, and U.S. Attorney Edwin Miller.  Was Joe a commie sympathizer who wanted to set up his own private Cuba with missiles pointed at the Hotel Del Coronado?  What if the Abalonians decided to restrict fishing in their newly claimed territorial waters? What if Joe got together with the Mob Guys in Vegas and set up a casino?  Many questions and no answers.  It was calm as a pond, glassy, with no swell as the boys started to move the Jalisco in position on Bishops Rock.  No one seemed to notice that the horizon to the west had started a see-saw motion very slow and at a great distance.

Surfer at Cortes Bank

Surfer at Cortes Bank

A marine layer now encircled the process adding a ghostly pale to the proceedings. The Jalisco was in position and the sinking had started. What had also started was that the Jalisco was being enveloped by long, low-frequency forerunners that formed the leading edge of a huge North Pacific swell.  As the outer edge of the swell swept past the Jalisco the waves encountered something they hadn’t encountered since they felt Hawaii – an immovable object that is Cortes Bank. The wave’s energy now was compressed and could go nowhere but up.  The Jalisco now climbed and sharply dropped with her hull banging like a deafening gong. The sets continued with the waves increasing in size.  The men on the Jalisco had to leave and they had to leave now. Their only hope would be a lull in the giant sets. The men dove overboard and were yanked out of the water by the crew of the Rainbow’s End. Everyone left the Jalisco, that is, everyone except Joe Kirkwood who clutched the forward mast. The men on the Rainbow’s End watched as the water below the bow of the stricken Jalisco was drawn down and then gathered into a beautiful blue green nightmare that loomed above the Jalisco some 50 feet in the air with fish inside

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

the wave plainly visible.  It exploded on the Jalisco and sent poor Joe flying off the ship still wearing his fur after-ski boots.  Kirkwood tumbled some 200 yards down the trough of the wave and miraculously ended up just feet from the tug boat and was successfully plucked from the sea.  After more waves, the entire superstructure was torn completely off the Jalisco with a mingling of water and steel.  The Jalisco was gone and so were the dreams of the Nation of Abalonia.

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco split into 3 pieces of sharp jagged steel which makes surfing this inhospitable place that much more dangerous. Surfer Mike Parsons in January 2008 caught a documented 80 foot wave at Cortes Bank with the skeleton of the Jalisco below him.  In 1985 the gigantic aircraft carrier USS Enterprise wandered to close to

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Cortes Bank putting a 60 foot gash in her outer hull, ripped-off her port keel, and

severely deformed her outboard port propellers.  She continued operations and her captain was relieved of his duties.

By my calculations Joe Kirkwood Jr., whose whereabouts are unknown, is about 93 years old.  But Joe, if you are out there, let me buy you a couple and you can tell me about being the King of Abalonia. Do you still have those boots?

If you get a chance please read the book “Ghost Wave” by  Chris Dixon. A wonderful book about Cortes Bank which I borrowed and stole from. Thanks Chris.   Groove.

Go to Heaven for the Climate. Go to Hell for the Company

It was 1861 and the Civil War was beginning it’s bloody boil.  Because of the conflict, Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was forced to give up his life as a steamboat Captain seeing how the Mississippi was closed to peace time traffic.  In New Orleans, when Louisiana seceded Sam returned to Hannibal, Missouri where he joined a local group of Confederate militia.  Two weeks of running around the woods of Missouri were more than enough for Second Lieutenant Clemens, whose commitment to the cause was less than noble, but honest to himself.  “I was incapacitated by fatigue through persistent retreating” he later joked. For the rest of the war he was far away from any fighting which suited Sam just fine.

Hangovers are rough stuff and we all have different methods for their demise.  Some prefer saunas or

Montgomery Block steam bath

Montgomery Block

steam baths, some choose rigorous labor or exercise, while I prefer to consume deep fried foods, more alcohol and to move as little as possible for fear of upsetting my delicate composition and balance.  On a rainy San Francisco day in June 1863 halfway through a 2 month stay in San Francisco that stretched into 3 years, Sam chose to battle his heavy hangover at  the steam rooms of the fashionable Montgomery Block, also known as the Monkey Block. When built in 1853 the four story structure was the tallest building west of the Mississippi and was the home and work place for hundreds of writers, lawyers and painters for over 100 years.  Those who spent time there include Jack London, George Sterling, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling,  Ambrose Bierce, Bret Harte, Dorothea Lange, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo. The building bested the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, but couldn’t stop the bulldozers which toppled it in 1959 and is now home to the Transamerica Pyramid.

So anyway, there is Mark Twain with a mountainous hangover in the steam room, overhearing a conversation from a gentleman covered in soot.  Turns out that the  stout round faced gent was a customs inspector, volunteer The Real Tom Sawyerfireman, special policeman and bona fide hero by the name of Tom Sawyer.  Tom and Mark soon became great friends and patrolled the bars and gambling joints of San Francisco acquiring the best of hangovers and losing copious amounts of money, but having the time of their lives.  Sawyer remembered  “He beat the record for lyin’ — nobody was in a race with him there.  He never had a cent.  His clothes were always ragged and he never had his hair cut or a shave since ’60. I used to give him half my wages and then he borrow from the other half, but a jollier companion and a better mate I would never want. He was a prince among men, you can bet, though I allow he was the homeliest man I ever set eyes on, Sam was.”  Throughout 1863 and into 1864 Mark Twain published unsigned stories in the “Call” newspaper. ”  They’d send him out down at the paper to write something up, Sawyer remembers, ” and he’d go up to the Blue Wing Saloon and sit around telling stories and drink

Tom Sawyer (left) at the Gotham saloon

Tom Sawyer (left) at the Gotham saloon

all day then go back to the office and write something up. Most of the times he’d get it all wrong, but it was mighty entertaining.”   Twain used to loathe working at the “Call”.   “It was awful drudgery for a lazy man and I was born lazy.  I raked the town from end to end and if there weren’t no fires to report I’d start one.” Twain said.

Tom Sawyer earned his hero status not only for being an excellent fireman but for gallantry when a steamer “The Independence” blew it’s boilers off the Baja coast and Tom was credited with saving 90 lives at sea, 26 singlehandedly.

On September 28th, Sawyer and Twain hit the town hard.  “Mark was as sprung as I was and in a short time we owned the City,

cobblestones and all.”  Sawyer recalled. “Toward the morning Mark sobered up a bit and we got to telling yarns. The next day Mark walks up to me and puts both hands on my shoulders.  Tom, he says, I’m gonna write a book about a boy and the kind I have in mind was just about the toughest boy in the world. Tom, he was just such a boy as you must of been….How many copies will you take, Tom, half up front? ”

San Francisco

San Francisco

Mark Twain started a lecture tour which was a big deal back then, just telling stories and make people laugh. Tom sat in the front row at one of the lectures in San Francisco and his hearty laugh could be heard at all the bars on Montgomery Street.  Afterwards, Twain decided to take his leave of San Francisco and at the age of 31 he leapt into a most glorious writing and lecturing career that arguably made him the most famous American of the late 19th and early 20th century.  Tom Sawyer hugged his friend and said goodbye and despite Tom Sawyer’s wishes that his friend would come join him at his own saloon ” The Gotham,” which he owned for 21 years, they would never see each other again.

The non fictional Tom Sawyer died in 1906 – 3 1/2 years before Twain.  “Tom Sawyer, Whose Name Inspired Twain Dies at Great Age,” read the headlines of the local paper.  Sawyer’s saloon was destroyed by fire that same year.

So just think about all the authors, painters, and song writers who at this moment article-2211439-154BC992000005DC-720_306x482are creating something beautiful, sad, dangerous, ridiculous, and deeply moving about the times they have spent drinking massive amounts of alcohol with you.  Perhaps it is time for a steam bath.  Groove.

I Refuse to Eat Wheaties: The Sad Intrigue of Jim Thorpe

Jim's trailer park

Jim’s trailer park

Have you ever been to Lomita, CA?  I spent a little while there, kind of lost, on a rainy afternoon on a return trip from showing my gal the broken shell that was once wonderful Marineland.  It is a small hamlet (total area 1.9 square miles) just east of Palos Verdes, once home to Louie Zamperini Field (the great Zamp the Champ immortalized in the book ” Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand)  which has been recently annexed by the city of Torrance.  An unremarkable little town (population of just over 20,000) with the exception that on March 28, 1953,  arguably the greatest athlete in American history died there of heart failure in a dilapidated trailer park.  The great Jim Thorpe spent his last years in Lomita battling alcoholism, poverty and health issues.  He died at the age of 64.

Jim is not buried in Lomita or Prague, Oklahoma where he was born and wished to be buried.  Jim Thorpe is buried in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania – a place he had never been to or seen, but more about that later.

Unknown-2In 1950, Jim Thorpe was overwhelmingly voted by America’s sports writers the greatest athlete of the first half century.  The 300 writers gave Babe Ruth 86 first place votes, Jim received 252.  Many years later, in a poll by ABC Sports, Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century.  In the 1912  Olympics Jim won both the pentathlon and the decathlon, the only athlete to ever do so. His record scores in both events would not be broken for decades.  Prior to the 1500 meters Jimmy’s track shoes were stolen, he found some shoes in the trash, but they were mismatched.  So on one foot he had to wear extra socks to compensate for the larger shoe.  In that race his time was faster than anyone in the 1960 Olys, in fact, Jimmy’s time was 9 seconds faster than the great Rafer Johnson.  Bryan Clay, the American gold medal  winner of the decathlon at the 2008 Oly’s,was timed at his career best in the 1500 meters just one-second faster than Jim’s time in 1912.   King Gustav

Mismatched shoes

Mismatched shoes

presented Thorpe with his medals and said “You are the greatest athlete in the world”.  Jim responded “Thanks King.”  Thorpe’s successes had not gone unnoticed in the US and he was honored with a ticker-tape parade on Broadway in New York City.  He remembered later,”I heard people yelling my name, and I couldn’t realize how one fellow could have so many friends”.  Later, Thorpe was stripped of his Oly medals when it came to light that he had participated in some semi-professional baseball games, thus no longer an amateur.  The only good that came from this was that he soon received many offers from professional teams and went on to have success in professional basketball, baseball, and the  early NFL.  The days of professional athletes making the big lettuce were many, many years to come.

Jim played professional sports until he was 41 and the end of his sporting career coincided with the start of the Great Depression. Working odd jobs such as nightwatchman, gas station attendant and as a merchant marine, nothing stuck and the booze became his constant buddy. The people who knew him always said he carried himself as a gentleman – quiet and unassuming.  Married 3 times and with 7 children scattered across the country, Jim ‘s heart called it a day in Lomita, California sitting across from his shrill of a wife Patsy.  Then things got weird.

The Native American funeral had begun in Prague, Oklahoma with most of Jim’s children in attendance and when 3rd wife Patsy arrived with a hearse and a Oklahoma Highway Patrolman in tow everybody knew something bad was going to happen. Nobody who had ever met Patsy would accuse her of being kind nor pleasant, especially Jim’s kids from his previous marriages, but Patsy would find a way to raise the bar of her non-groove status.  She barged into the service and announced that her dead husband was “too cold”.  Then ordered the coffin loaded into the hearse and drove away handing Thorpe’s body to a mausoleum. Those  attending the service were slack-jawed, dumbfounded, but did nothing.

Five months after Thorpe’s death Patsy showed up at the mausoleum and had the body shipped to Tulsa hoping the city would build a memorial. Tulsa turned her down. Patsy continued to shop old Jim around  asking for a monument and some cash for Patsy.  Even Carlisle, Pennsylvania where Jim went to college had to say no “Patsy was asking for too much money” said a Carlisle official.

imagesAfter alienating almost everyone she wound up in the Poconos of Pennsylvania where two tiny boroughs straddling the Lehigh River, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk’s, brilliant civic leaders decided they could combine the towns, build a monument of glory  to Jimmy, pay off Patsy, and rename themselves Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.  Surely, doing this would put them on the path to grooveland.  There was talk of the NFL Hall of Fame coming, a 500 bed hospital, a sports stadium, and a sporting goods factory.  With a parade, honking horns, marching high school bands, and by a margin of 10 to 1 the Chunks signed the deal.  A red marble mausoleum was built, some Oklahoma dirt was found, they threw Jimmy in there, officially changed the name of their towns to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and waited for the good times.

The good times did not follow.  It flopped badly, nobody came, nobody cared. No Hall of Fame, no hospital, no factory, no nothin.  As one of the townsfolk said “all we got was a dead indian”.  But as the decades folded up, the fortunes of the town began to change, but not because of Jimmy.  Mountain biking, clean air, and white water rafting have improved the financial world of Jim Thorpe, PA.

Some of Jim’s sons have made moves through the courts to get his body back to Oklahoma, but most of the relatives have now passed on. The motion is still in the courts with no closing in sight.

Jim Thorpe finally got on a Wheaties box, but it wasn’t until 2001 and only after a huge letter writing campaign. (Fake wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin gets the nod, but the greatest American athlete almost doesn’t ? I shall refuse to eat Wheaties ever again!  Do not serve them toUnknown-1 me or I shall fling the bowl like a frisbee at your youngest child.)  I am not going to go with a Rodney Dangerfield line here, but it is pretty clear that in most of his life and in his death the respect factor has been pretty low for Jimmy.

So I say, go to a bar and have seven cocktails and raise a toast to America’s Greatest athlete and hope that your body doesn’t  end up in some strange place you’ve never heard of or been to like in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.  But maybe, just maybe,  I like the sound of Groovemaster, Uzbekistan.  Hmmm…. Groove.

Answers to questions you don’t need to know

Congrats again to Nelson Holder and Tom “Dusty Starr” Collins for answering all 11 questions correctly. Your booze awaits.  Martin Valade and Rob Perez deserve a nod of approval, but came up a little short.

Here are the answers:

The Hoff

1) Yes, the Hoff crab is named after the hairy chested David “The Hoff” Hasslehoff, the great actor from Baywatch and Knight Rider (my friend Bob Buena used to tell chicks that he was the voice of Kitt, the Trans Am that told ” The Hoff ” what to do…. I am sure it worked for him, though perhaps currently not as well.)  It proves that there are scientists that have a semblance of a sense of humor.

2) General Lew Wallace did write Ben-Hur which became the best selling book of the 19th century. It has never been out of print and has been adapted for film 4 times.  

3) Gilligan’s first name is Willie (there are a variety of spellings).  In one of the Brady Bunch movies it was hinted that Mrs. Brady’s first husband was a professor who was lost at sea. Both Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch were created by Sherwood Schwartz.

4) Warren Zevon’s Dad, Willie Stumpy Zevon was a boxer and a bookmaker for notorious gangster Mickey Cohen. He was best man for Mickey first marriage.

5) The answer is 6,000,000 to 7,000,000.   The deaths of the American Civil War exceed the deaths of all U.S. wars combined.  An example of this is the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery’s charge at Petersburg, Virginia  where 635 of it’s 900 men were lost in 7 minutes.  The Christian family of Virginia lost 18 family members during the war.

6) The answer is Big Bill Taft. Bill was morbidly obese and suffered from loud belches and chronic flatulence. After his presidency he became Chief Justice of the United States. Sounds like a cool guy to groove with at an outdoor picnic, but not a fellow to get stuck in an elevator with.

7) Chuck Lindbergh had 7 kids outside of his marriage to Anne Morrow with 3 different German gals (two of them sisters). I suppose there is a reason Chuck is buried in Maui and Anne is buried back east.

8) Freddie Mercury was born a Parsi, with the name  Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar. He lived there and in India until his mid teens. He is known as Britain’s first Asian rockstar.

9) Gaylord Wilshire was a wild guy, but had very little to do with the magnificent street we know as Wilshire Blvd., owning just 4 blks which he donated to the city of Los Angeles under the agreement they name the street after him. Go to HMS Bounty bar which is connected to the Gaylord Apartments (named after Gaylord W.) and have a drink for every block he owned . You will groove.   

10) In his youth Daryl Gates was one time arrested for punching a police officer after getting a parking ticket. “Big D” as he was sometimes called, was Chief  “I’m so hammered that I find stairs a hazard” Parker’s driver and later became chief himself. Known as an arrogant leader and foolish with words (“casual drug users should be taken out and shot”) he resigned shortly after the Rodney King riots.

11) The answer here is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Though one does not hear much from the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit Club or the Rabbiteers and I think one has to look very hard to find him at the Magic Kingdom, this does not diminish his groove to

Oswald

the Disney folks because he is one of the original characters.

So that’s it. Again, congratulations to Nelson and Tom for they are champions for the rest of their days. I would like to thank all that tested their useless knowledge in the hope of drinking alcohol with me .  Perhaps next time you might be the one wrestling with 3 Samoan Fog-cutters .  Groove.

Fog Cutter

Quizmasters & Booze for the People

All right Cool Cats and Kittens, you steel souled gatherers of groove, you lusters of the crooked smile, the neon spandex jacket, and the all messy, dirty thoughts that cannot be helped by prayer.  It is time to put on your metallic colored caps of thinking and squeeze out the delicious strains of useless knowledge like the yellow matter custard that John spoke of.  Here’s the Daddy:  First two people who answer all eleven questions correctly will have 3 cocktails purchased for them at one of my favorite bars.  This deal is “on the belly” – so step up and be counted.  The questions, like my blog, mean nothing and everything, so pour yourself  a tall cool one and tax those dark shadows in your brain.  “Luck is the residue of design” the Old Branch said, so let’s start crackin.

Hoff crab

1.   The Hoff crab is a type of yeti crab discovered in 2010 on the Southern Ocean floor near Antarctica. It is named after:

A) Abbie Hoffman , political and social activist who co-founded the Yippies and was thrown off the stage at Woodstock in 1969 by Pete Townsend when he tried to interrupt  The Who’s performance.

B) David “the Hoff” Hasselhoff  because the crab has many hairs on its abdomen and it reminded the scientists of the strapping hairy chested actor.

C) The great relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman, one time save leader in the MLB.

D) For  Helsinki, Finland –  home  of crab discoverer Vaanta Kaajanokka.

2.  Lew Wallace  was a Civil War general and Governor of the New Mexico territory.  He broke his promise to pardon Billy the Kid after the Lincoln County Wars in 1879.  He is also famous for :

Lew Wallace

A) inventing the Graham Cracker

B) making the first baseball glove

C) writing the religious classic Ben-Hur

D) is distantly related to Frankie Valle of the Four Seasons

3.  We all love that wacky yet pleasantly attractive Gilligan from ” Gilligan’s Island”. What was his first name on the show?

A) Willie

B) Gill as in Gill Egan

C) Buddy

D) Ezra

4.  Rockstar Warren Zevon ‘s (“Werewolves of London”, “Poor,Poor,Pitiful Me” ) father was:

A) A minor league catcher in the Los Angeles Dodger organization

B) Part of L.A. Gangster Mickey Cohen’s gang

C) Invented a life saving tool used today by lifeguards in Santa Monica

D) Invented the Pez dispenser

Warren Z

5.  If the amount of soldiers who died in the American Civil War were to be computed to the current population of the United States population there would be

A) 700,000 – 1,000,000 dead

B) 2,000,000 – 3,000,000 dead

C) 4 ,000,000 – 5 ,000,000 dead

D) 6,000,000-7,000,000 dead

6.  The Powers that Be took over Bob Lee’s pad during the Civil War and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery.  (Bob’s estate sued and it was returned to his family, then they sold it back to the Government).  Besides JFK, only one other President is buried there.  Which one ?

A) Ike Eisenhower

B) Andy Jackson

C) Billy Taft

D) Ted Roosevelt

7.  Charlie Lindberg was known for being the first to fly across the Atlantic on a solo.  He was also known to have spread his seed counting 12 children he called his own.  How many of those were illegitimate (conceived outside of his marriage to Anne Morrow)?

A) all 12

B) 23

C) 7

D) 4

Fred

8. The word is that Sasha Baron Cohen is going to play Fred Mercury of the rock group Queen in a up and coming movie bio.  Who didn’t dig that stick microphone and his huge overbite ?  Fred is from what descendants ?

A) English

B) Indian

C) French

D) Brazilian

9. Wilshire Blvd is named after Gaylord Wilshire, the socialist millionaire, who made and lost a number of fortunes and had even less respect for the mighty dollar than I do.  How much of this famed street did he actually own?

A) 16 miles

B) 7 miles

C) 1 mile

D) 4 blocks

10.  Los Angeles was a delicious cesspool of corruption and vice until the new police chief  Bill Parker (Parker Center) took over in 1950.   Sure, he cleaned up Los Angeles, but don’t we all miss the days when the L.A. Vice squad ran their own prostitution ring and the coppers were extorting dough from the local hoodlums?   Chief Bill had his issues : “After trying to absorb Parker’s brilliance by day,  I would, too often by night, drive him home drunk.  And I mean loaded.  He drank until words slurred and stairs became a hazard.  He would repeat the same thought over and over until he became a terrible bore.”  Who said this about the Chief ?

A) Future L.A. mayor Sam Yorty

B) Jack Webb of Dragnet fame

C) Future Police chief Darrell Gates

D) L.A. Ram Quarterback Roman Gabriel

11.   In 1928 Walt Disney lost one of his cartoon characters to Universal Pictures.  78 years later the Walt Disney Company through a trade with NBC Universal got the characters back when NBC got the rights to sportscaster supreme Al Michaels.  What cartoon character did the Disney Company get back?

A) Mickey Mouse

B) Arnold Schwarzenegger

C) Donald Duck

D) Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

So there you have it. Enter as many times as you like.  Free booze is in the future of the 2 winners.  Good luck and cocktails are on me. Groove.

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