April 21st, 2015
Rick Kogan is probably my favorite journalist in Chicago. A wealth of information, a wry attitude, an engaging style, and always supportive of the goofy crap I try to make a living doing. He gave our baseball doggerel website a mention in his Sunday Tribune column last week, in anticipation of a baseball writing discussion at the Newberry Library. If you’d like to read the whole article, click on this sentence. Below is one of my quotes in the piece.
“We avoid cosmic highfalutin importance and stick with subjects like the previous night’s blown save or the price of beer. But we do doggerel, not poetry. We also post song parodies and videos. We are profound only by accident at Bardball. There’s enough stuffy bloviage written about baseball already.”
November 14th, 2014
Hey all you kinkers and flatties out there!
I’m trying to gin up a little flash for Double Indignity in the weeks before Christmas. So I’m going to wade into the waters of a book giveaway, like all the experts tell me.
So if you’ve been waiting for the chance to get a signed copy of Rex Koko, Private Clown #2, as well as a signed poster and who knows what else I’ll throw into the envelope, click on the button below, or head over to Goodreads and look for it in the Giveaway listings before December 10.
November 5th, 2014
One of the best parts of my author chat at the Beverly Arts Center on October 19 was meeting my host, Penny Bigelow Golden, and her 8-year-old daughter, Flannery. A stylish scamp, sporting a fedora and a tartan skirt that day, she has told her mother time and again that she will grow up to be a famous French artist. Judging by her depiction of Rex Koko below, she may just make that prediction come true.
And she signed her note that came with the art “Your friend”. That’s cool by me, Flannery.
October 30th, 2014
Eric Hosmer’s modified mullet
MadBum casually firing bullets
Superfans from South Korea
The panicked look on Kelvin Herrera
Phantom sighting of the Freak
Plugging Aoki’s defensive leak
Peavy shelled like the Hellespont
Escobar laying down a bunt???
Joe Buck opining from his tuchus
Of redoubtable Mike Moustakas
Gordon’s single to the wall
What the hell is Ned Yost thinking?
I’ll have whatever Pence is drinking
Crawford gobbles up ground balls
Bochy weeps, and Affeldt bawls
Young Joe Panik, Dyson, Cain…
Can we please do it all again?
October 23rd, 2014
KC fans are crying like their fountain
That James Shields
A smorgasbord yields?
A surprise (save Joe Buck) to no one.
The Giant hill ace
Has a fall ERA
So small as to be microscopic
While it’s time for “Big Game”
To drop the nickname
And meetings for that MLB biopic.
October 14th, 2014
Don’t be glum
Don’t ask why
Albuquerque’s just a 6th inning guy
Don’t you fret
Don’t you worry
After the 7th, we’ll turn to Soria
Don’t lose hope
Just have faith — when
It’s down to one inning, we’ll bring in Nathan
No matter where
Or what or when,
I’m skipper, and would do it all again.
October 11th, 2014
After a spring and summer of scrivening in the salt mines — how’s that for alliteration? — it was more than high time for a book release event. What good is writing a couple of books of clown noir if I can’t bring a little bit of circus excitement to my fans and readers? Is the writing life all practice and no spectacle? Emphatically NO!
Last July, I had just published Double Indignity and was busy working to finish The Wet Nose of Danger. I went to talk with Suzy Takacz, who owns my neighborhood store, the Book Cellar, about doing an event in the fall. She was interested.
“What do you think about having a couple of fire-eaters in the store?” I asked, just trying to get her attention.
Suzy thought about it. And thought and thought and thought, with the usual sparkle in her eye. (I think she had seen one too many boring, unattended signings where the writer droned on and on about his/her process.) Finally, she had to say no. Not because she was worried about torching her store, or filling it with chemical smells, or disrupting business. She said no because there are tenants living above the store, and she wouldn’t want to displace them if anything happened.
Lucky for me, The Book Cellar is across a quiet street from a city plaza, big enough to be useful for whatever I was thinking. I went through the city and the alderman’s office, as well as the chamber of commerce, to make sure everything would be ducky. The only warning I got came from the alderman’s office. “I’m going to have some music and circus acts,” I said. “Terrific,” spokesperson pol said, “just don’t do anything like fire-eaters or something.” “No worries,” I assured him.
With gypsy music from the fabulous Paprikash Brothers!
It was a beautiful night, and a good-sized crowd gathered for the ballyhoo.
Then we all marched across Lincoln Avenue, into the store for the reading. After being introduced by Suzy T, I read a passage from Double Indignity, the teeny car chase scene from Chapter 22.
Next it was time for a little vocabulary quiz, to see who was up on their circus “parlari”. I was frankly surprised that no one got the first question (a woman with an unnatural lust for clowns is, of course, a “joey jumper”), but most of the audience was fairly literate. I tossed out popcorn balls for prizes to the winners.
Then the audience asked me some questions about my writing process. A friend asked, “Where do you think these insane characters come from?” I gave her some long-winded answer — that some come to mind from a story of circus lore, some are inspired by an old photo, some are born of plot necessity — when really the only true response is, “If I knew, don’t you think I’d have taken care of it by now?”
Next, I read a rather lurid section from The Wet Nose of Danger, involving a “joey jumper” and Rex at a high-society fundraiser. “She had more arms than a spider-woman, and the sex drive of a hippo after Happy Hour.” Then, it was time for the signing, and the crowd didn’t disappoint. I also gave away a lot of free posters.
One of the best surprises of the evening was an old geezer sitting in the front row. During the signing, he came up balanced on his cane and introduced himself. He could’ve been 60 and he could’ve been 80, but he told me that since the age of 18, he had worked backstage with the big cats for the Cole Brothers Circus! He had retired about 10 years ago, but he said he had all the scars he needed to prove he’d been with the show.
“It was all I ever wanted to do,” he said. “The cats were just like housecats, with their routines and their need for attention, and their litter box. I’d never train monkeys. Monkeys were vicious, unpredictable. Big cats were always marvelous.”
I’m pretty certain he lives in my neighborhood, because he was pulling around a shopping cart from the local sausage shop. I apologized to him in advance for anything I might have gotten wrong in my story, but said all I was going for was entertainment. I’ve met a few other kinkers like this before. Circus people and veterans are out there among us. You never know when you’re going to meet one!
All in all, it was a spectacular night! One for the record books! A fitting launch for the latest and strangest “Rex Koko, Private Clown” caper!
(For more pictures of the evening, please check out the photo album I’ve created on Facebook.)
October 7th, 2014
Tygers, Tygers, slinking low,
Humbled by the sailing O’s,
What makeup will yours be now
If Max and V-Mart take their bows?
We scarce knew you through this year
with superstars bought so dear.
With Triple Crowns and Cy Youngs
The faithful still bit their tongues.
What staff ace learns yet in May
He must recast how to play?
Which outfielder is there that
Can deftly wield both glove ‘n bat?
What cast of manager says,
“Pinch hit? Call Hernan Perez!”
And what manner of bullpen
Features Joba Chamberlain????
Tygers, Tygers, slinking low,
All these questions we would know,
Plus the reason for the fact
Ausmus has a long contract.
September 4th, 2014
Today, at BARDBALL, with apologies to William Carlos Williams:
We have traded
who was clogging
to the A’s
in a pennant race
for a bag
he was ridiculous
and so old
August 4th, 2014
Today, at BARDBALL:
Scherzer, Sanchez, Price and Verlander
An A-Team from Mr. I for all Michiganders
Sanchez, Scherzer, Verlander and Price
Dombrowski bets big with each roll of the dice
Verlander, Price, Scherzer, Sanchez
A squad made in heaven, so everyone says
Price, Sanchez, Verlander and Scherzer
Beef up the starters, the pen can’t get worser
Lester, Samardzija, Gray and Kazmir
Give the green-and-gold faithful reason to cheer
Samardzija, Gray, Kazmir and Lester
The A’s try not to let past losses fester
Kazmir, Lester, Samardzija and Gray
A huge power shift to the east in the Bay
Gray, Kazmir, Lester, Samardzija
Giving the rest of the AL neuralgia
It’s “win and win now”
They’re swinging their willies
And trying to ignore
The Phate of the Phillies.
July 8th, 2014
Today, at BARDBALL:
Teams have shown over and over
(At least those who ain’t dozing)
If you want to play in October
@#$%!!! Always be closing!
Swing for the fences? Go ahead, then.
Make your double plays — great for posing
If you want to stand among men, friend,
@#$%!!! Always be closing!
Put that coffee down!
Coffee is for closers only!
It takes brass balls to win
Which you ain’t got, not remotely!
Second place is a set of steak knives.
Third place? Your job’s decomposing.
You think you deserve the hot leads?
@#$%! you! Always be closing!!
June 5th, 2014
Today at BARDBALL, an ode to an old baseball lifer.
When I think of him
Looks like chaw and tar
And a grand har-har
To those squares
Who don’t care
And giving your all
For what you love.
And when push comes to shove,
Had Martinez been 70,
Zim would’ve pounded him plenty.
You’re our kind of guy.
May 28th, 2014
I’ve been too busy with speeches and the latest Rex Koko novel (COMING VERY SOON!) to come over here to the blog and talk about the latest in baseball doggerel. For those of you who miss it, here’s my latest piece of hackery from over there, about Derek Jeter’s farewell tour.
Remember, if you like your baseball poetry fast, loose and unsentimental, check out Bardball daily during the season, and tell your friends about it.
The Captain’s Yard Sale
A dining set of broken bats
A navy pinstripe yoga mat
A year’s supply of Genny Cream
A keg signed by the vending team
A “2″ carved out of northern granite
A solar-cell vibrating hammock
A zircon-slathered Yankee topper
A 2,000-gallon popcorn popper
Another ugly pair of boots
A vid lip-synching with the Roots
“2s” in crystal, onyx, steel,
Beer cans, tree trunks and fresh veal
A wondrous Joe-Girardi-shaped ‘tater
A Japanese robot fellater
It’s not a hoarder’s dream or last mirage –
Just what’s stuffed in Jeet’s garage.
May 22nd, 2014
Think political correctness is dead? Think again, pally. There’s been lots of news to take apart and make fun of, both on the left and the right. (Remember, extremism and identity politics is an equal opportunity befuddler now.)
So last week, I traveled up to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to talk to the nice people at Grand Forum, which is a speakers series run throughout the year at the GR campus of Grand Valley State University. More than a hundred folks spent part of their morning, listening to me carp and mock and jape and chaff. It was a great time, with both the speech and the Q&A afterward. AND folks bought a lot of books, both PCBS and Honk Honk, My Darling, which is a great way to win the heart of a writer, in case you had any question about that.
This appearance was especially enjoyable because I have a lot of family up in the area. So, my in-laws, my aunt, cousins, my niece and nephew and his girlfriend were all there, as well as an old college friend that I’ve reconnected with (and who has been a huge promoter and beta reader of Rex Koko). They remarked that it was interesting to see me up their in my “public” persona. In other words, shaved and wearing pants.
The funniest part of the morning was all the self-effacing West Michiganders who kept asking me, incredulously, “And you drove all the way up from Chicago for us?” Yes, I really did. Lake Wobegon has got nothing on these folks. Thanks again for having me up there, Grand Forum.
May 1st, 2014
Last month, I had the distinct pleasure to head down to Indiana to visit Culver Academy. The writing center at this private secondary school was having its annual Excellence in Writing Awards, and they asked me to come down and give a few words for the occasion. Don’t think I wasn’t a little intimidated at the prospect — they gave out awards for, among others, best original composition in Chinese and Latin and best mathematical writing. The students, like all teenagers, tried to be flip about the significance of the event, like “I write in Latin every day, but usually not in verse like this.” But somewhere down inside they were proud, and they had every reason to be.
The next day, I conducted writing workshops with the Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors — around 175 all told. I was a little nervous to start, but each class ended up being a rousing time. In our short periods together, I wanted to give the students some pointers on making their writing more vivid and precise. We started out talking about warm-up exercises, then did some “quick writing” to show the importance of lively, precise verbs and vivid sensory information. I also included a few lessons from improvisational acting to give them hints to goose their writing along when things get bogged down. By the end of each class, I had the enviable problem of getting them to leave off their editing and let me give some closing remarks and helpful resources. Other teachers out there might doubt this, but my hand to Strunk & White, I swear it’s true.
And these weren’t just students interested in writing, mind you. There were all the kids from the Humanities classes, so a lot of them were probably expecting a blow-off class. It was very gratifying to deprive them of that.
I met students from all over the country and around the world, and they were attentive, articulate and just downright cool. They were all a pleasure to be around. A couple even gave me some of their personal writing to look over when I got back. I hope they enjoyed their time with me as much as I did with them.
Below are some pictures of their beautiful campus. Also, here’s a write-up of the workshop from the Culver Newsletter.
April 10th, 2014
Born on Tuesday
Homered off Seaver Wednesday
Traded on Thursday
Saved the flag Friday
Broke Canada’s heart Saturday
Retired on Sunday
And that’s why people still talk about Rick Monday.
February 21st, 2014
And it wasn’t even a deposition!
Last night my wife and I had a grand old time at the Union League Club down in the Loop, as guests of the Lawyers Club of Chicago. A little cocktail, a little dinner with some fascinating people (including a lawyer I was on staff with 25 years ago, when I worked for the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers), and then it came time to earn my meal, with my speech on the current state of political correctness.
Lucky for me, that current state is always ripe for skewering, basting and ribbing, even if food isn’t involved.
My audience was very receptive and laughed a lot as I talked about various forms of extremism and ideological purity on both the right and the left. Among the topics we explored were the Washington Redskins and culturally sensitive team names, whether there is coded language in the word “thug”, and how Sweden is working to eliminate pronouns that indicate gender. Afterward we had a little Q&A. It was all a very fun time, and I thank the club for being so cordial and asking me to speak with them. (I had been pretty intimidated when they first asked me, considering they usually have a Supreme Court justice come and speak, and had recently had the Chairman of the Chicago Black Hawks and Peter Sagal talking about the US Constitution. Not together, of course.)
But wait, did I mention hardware? Yes, hardware!
The folks there were so nice that they even gave me a memento of the evening, to decorate the office bookshelf. I might be a sap, but I love these kinds of things. It shows thoughtfulness and planning. It also shows that they didn’t chase me off the podium by throwing dinner rolls. Win Win! Thanks again, Lawyers Club! You’ll always have an amicus in my curiae.
January 16th, 2014
The Chicago Cubs have lost nearly 300 games in the past three years. They fired their manager at the end of last season. Any new tyro who might be in the farm system is at least two seasons away from helping the team in the big leagues. And the team is arguing with the city and all their neighbors about expanding Wrigley Field and the surrounding area into something that looks a whole lot like Disney World.
So what’s the best thing to do in this hot stove season? Introduce a fuzzy cub mascot, of course!
By now, everyone who’s the least bit interested has heard about Clark the Cub, so I won’t rehash it here. He’s not popular with the adults, who are staring to act a little juvenile in their objections. I’m no exception. Below you can find the link to an article I wrote for ChicagoSideSports, on how ol’ Clark can ingratiate himself with the fans, at least the young and female portion of that group.
Top 10 Pickup Lines for Clark the Cub
December 10th, 2013
Yesterday was Mike Ditka Day in Illinois, on which the former player/coach’s number 89 was retired by the Chicago Bears. It was an honor long overdue, not to mention a reconciliation between the hard-headed Ditka and the petty and long-memoried Bears. But he’s the only player to return and coach his team to a Super Bowl, so whatever you want to say about him, he was at the helm at the right time. And those of use who watched the 1985 Bears roll to the Super Bowl will remember what a magnificent season it was. While the youngsters might get sick of us reminiscing about it, it was what made me a Bears fan.
So after watching the Bears in the unlikely situation of shellacking their opponent during the game last night, my doggerel muse was tickled a little. I wrote some lines before I went to bed, then finished them up this morning. The good people over at ChicagoSide printed it this noon, and now you can enjoy it here. Go Bears!
Here’s a little taste to get you started:
TWAS THE NIGHT OF DITKA
Then at halftime they rolled out a giant red carpet
And displayed all his trophies like goods at the market.
Us fans held our breath, even though it was froze.
Twas like the coming of Santa, Jesus and D. Rose.
Da Coach came into view, all pink in the face,
In a dapper top coat, not a hair out of place.
He strode tall and erect, like a much younger man,
A youth-giving sight to most of the fans.
And at midfield, what wondrous sight do we see
But Ditka standing next to McCaskey!
This wasn’t the one who fired him, still
Ditka Day is a time for peace and goodwill.
Read the rest of it at ChicagoSide!
December 4th, 2013
Hello, dear friends. With the Yuletide season upon us once again, I’d like to give you all a little stocking stuffer for your ears. I know it’s also last year’s present, but it’s the thought that counts.
“Have Yourself a Monkey Little Christmas” is a heartwarming Top Town tale, starring Rex Koko, private clown. When Rex is doing his stint ringing a bell on the corner for charity, someone manages to cloat his little red kettle. But who? The answer to that question sends Rex on an adventure involving a sick friend, 20 or so uncontrollable monkeys, and a miserly landlord who needs a lesson in Christmas charity. Brought to you by Ludwig Coal Company, “the kind Mother used to burn.”
I’ve also reposted the special edition e-book of the story at Amazon. It’s only 99c, and ALL the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross. You KNOW you want it, just to complete your whole Rex Koko set.
For the electronic story from Amazon, click here.