Novelist Jim Kalin lives in Los Angeles, writes a monthly column for Amateur Wrestling News, and has traded in his speargun for a banjo. His wife and son sing harmony.
We sit together tonight, but work together tomorrow…
State of the Union Address, President Obama
That’s not exactly true. In President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address, the networks were very careful to let the television audience see that all attendees were sitting together, Democrat with Republican, which apparently meant they have finally put aside their differences, are united, and are ready to roll up their sleeves (after the 24-caret gold cufflinks have been removed of course) and get down to work solving the country’s financial woes. I saw Barbra Boxer sitting with John McCain for god’s sake. They must be serious!
This was the most chilling, deceitful, and ultimately revealing State of the Union Address I’ve ever watched. It was truthful, too, if one understood how to listen and decipher Obama’s message. This speech was not to you and I, but it was about us.
First of all, the Republicans and Democrats are indeed together. They have been a team a long time, but their foe, the mutual opponent, is you and me, the common people. I just couldn’t help feeling depleted whenever the cameras panned the audience of politicians. Every angle was a different view of millionaire louts, thugs, and thieves.
DO NOT BUY IT ANYMORE! The political parties are the same, working together against one another for the same goal. They want nothing to change. They demand a stalemate so that they, the rich, remain comfortable and in control. If you doubt me, think about the ridiculousness of a filibuster, or about the promise of a Democrat-led healthcare bill. The Clintons never intended for one to pass, nor did Obama. All presidential candidates receive too much in campaign contributions from the health insurance and medical industries for them to ever seriously pass something that would shrink the huge profits of those entities.
Obama (I now think of him as Obummer) stated that ‘The future is ours…’ indeed! The ‘ours’ he referred to includes only that small audience he stood before in the capitol and those with equal bank accounts. Obama also claimed that paychecks are bigger. I personally don’t know a single person who is making more since the recession (depression) began. He must have meant the paychecks of his fellow politicians, the CEO’s, and bank presidents.
The State of the Union Address was a three-ring circus. I wondered why there was a court stenographer recording the event. Wasn’t the thing recorded on video and film and a thousand other devices? And what about Joe Biden jotting whims on scratch paper while the President spoke; what in the world could have been that important, especially for a man who holds a fairly meaningless office?
What did you think of President Obama’s State of the Union Address?
It’s become apparent with the last three presidential elections that conservative America doesn’t have a clue about politics, but after Tuesday night’s debacle on the supershow ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ it’s clear that they know nothing about dance, either.
The success and popularity of Sarah Palin is unnerving, but I didn’t realize how far gone the American conservatives and Republicans were until I heard that her daughter Bristol had advanced to the finals of ‘Dancing With the Stars.’
Now, I don’t watch the reality show, but my wife and parents are big fans. My folks live in Ohio, so they see the airing three hours before my wife does. That’s got to be tough on my mother. I know her, and believe me, my father must hide her cellphone so she doesn’t call my wife here in California under the guise of just checking in to ‘inadvertently’ reveal the voter results.
If none of this makes any sense, don’t feel bad. You obviously have better things to do than watch forgettable tv or follow train-wreck politics. But the show is kind of like ‘Survivor,’ and every week, after each couple performs a dance routine they’ve been practicing, one of the duos gets booted. What determines who goes is a combination panel of judges’ scores and a call-in vote from the television audience. Those cell-phone voters are the problem.
I’ve seen Bristol dance. It’s not pretty. She reminds me of one of those small circus dogs in a tutu that prances about on back legs, tongue lolled out, anxious to receive a treat and get back down to life on all four paws. Her foxtrot seems to be infested with jitterbug, and her quick step looks like she’s searching for directions to the nearest ladies’ room.
When it was revealed on live tv that Bristol had made the finals, nobody could believe it. Not Brandy, the celebrity who was booted instead of Palin, not the judges, and especially not the studio audience. But apparently, conservative America had spoken with their cellphones, and what they said, loud and clear, was that they want Bristol’s mother to be our next president.
Does this sound like a colossal leap? Consider Bristol’s response to her unbelievable advancement.
She pointed out that she had really improved.
A bet. That will become her mother’s mantra, the thing she runs on. That she has come a long way. That she is better than last time. That she has improved.
The most interesting thing about Bristol’s appearance on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ is the background story. How did she get chosen? She’s not a star or celebrity. She has no talent, zero charisma, and very little physical appeal. She’s achieved nothing.
Bristol is laying groundwork for her mother’s campaign. Sarah Palin professes that she is still undecided, but that’s a lie. She appears on ‘Dances With the Stars’ whenever she gets the chance. It’s all about exposure, and believe me, the folks running her campaign know a great thing when they see it. I wonder about the backroom deals that got her daughter on that show.
Beware all ye who are adverse to conservatism. You are asleep, and it is coming. Conservative America swallowed George Bush hook, line, and stinker. He was not smart, but at least he knew it. Palin is worse. She can’t even remember to blink unless her handlers give her a reminder nudge.
If you take the ‘L’ out of Palin, you are left with PAIN. Something to think about.
A meridian runs opposite of the equator, and it would also be the line from the north pole to the south pole that moves forever west as the sun sets.
This was in 1987. I was sailing with my family and some friends in the Bahamas. We had rented a 47-foot sailboat out of Hopetown, a small harbor settlement on Abaco Island. Hopetown’s main district was a former British settlement filled with the ancestors of those who fled the colonies during the America Revolution. The other side was smaller, black, the descendants of slaves. But the homes on both sides were clapboard cottages, charming and painted bubblegum colors, with wooden hurricane shutters and no screens. Hopetown’s lanes were so narrow that the only vehicles on the island were golf carts and bicycles.
We sailed two weeks. It was lazy, and the sun never gave us a break. My father had rigged up a canopy over the boat’s cockpit, for it was a necessary refuge, especially around 2pm. We’d sail all morning, then anchor off some deserted beach, and while the others waded the warm shallows, I’d grab my spear and swim out to deeper, cooler water to find reef or rocks. That’s where the hunting was best, however barracuda and large sharks also roamed there. I searched for Bahamian crawfish, which was the Caribbean version of a lobster. I preferred eating strawberry groupers, but they were more difficult to spear.
My favorite part about trips has always been gathering books to read. The Bahama trip of 1987 was by far the best for reading. I took Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray, Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and a book that had been suggested to me but that I knew practically nothing about. It was by a relatively unknown writer named Cormack McCarthy, and the book was called Blood Meridian.
I began reading McCarthy’s masterpiece early one morning while sitting on deck with my back leaned against the mast. I was fascinated, and on most days, I would have stopped after an hour and taken a break with the others in the cockpit. Instead, I moved farther away from everyone and sat on the prow, dangling my feet over the water. We sailed in protected areas between islands, so the boat rarely bucked or bounced. Hanging suspended over the sea seemed the perfect place to read Blood Meridian. When we stopped for the afternoon, I helped feed out the anchor line, then got back to the book. I didn’t go out that day with my spear and fins, nor did I join the others for happy hour in the cockpit. I couldn’t put that book down.
Blood Meridian is the greatest thing I’ll ever read. It’s also the most violent, and all colors in the story are vibrant for only a moment before dust and death flatten them into murk. But that I got to read it not in my apartment on the couch, but outside, under a hulking sun where very few people lived or traveled — such perfect conditions!
The summer sunsets in the Bahamas are beautiful, and to be on a sailboat, anchored off some uninhabited island or cay; unbelievable! But for two evenings in 1987, I resented those sunsets, because I slept on deck, and there were no adequate lights to read by at night. So I stared skyward, into a moonless night, at the dull glint smeared across a sandpaper firmament, and thought of McCarthy’s rogues in their desert setting, hunting other beings just as savage as themselves, and on those pages, not a single character was at all unhappy about it.
Let’s face it. The economy is absolutely decimating businesses, and it’s not just the mom and pop stores. Monsters like Circuit City have flopped, and the auto industry has run to the federal government for aid. Locally, I’ve seen a Popeyes and a McDonald’s eat ash. But it’s worldwide, and along with the wars that have been cropping up like acne on a teenager’s forehead and environmental disasters such as The (S.O.)B.P. Oil Spill, it’s looking like only supreme intervention can save us.
But don’t count on religion. Like those fast-food failures, temples, chapels, and churches are also closing their doors. In this economy, even God is a business casualty.
When money is tight, it’s the small things, the details that count. Maybe God can only afford to address the smaller issues.
If I was God at this moment in history (and we are in a Major Moment, folks,) I’d do three things. Maybe it wouldn’t back the human race away from disaster’s brink, but it might set something larger in motion. Remember; it’s the little things.
My first decree would be to make everyone drive while on their cell phones. Only then would that tiny percentage of asswads who still drive and talk understand how inconvenient, annoying, and dangerous they are. Traffic would grind to a stop, and then they’d have plenty of time to contemplate their inconsideration.
Next, I would declare the first Monday of every month Racial Slur Day. It would be mandatory for everyone to wear t-shirts printed with any racist or derogatory term that applied to them. My shirt would read HONKY-MICK-BOHUNK. And strangers would be required to greet each other by calling out the labels on their shirts. In a year, those words would become comical and harmless.
Finally, I would make everyone a rich CEO for a day. Only then would people understand that the saying ‘nobody suffers like the rich’ is true, because the rich suffer less than anyone else, and when they do, it’s in comfort. The saying was concocted by them. Maybe then the poor and middle class – the majority – would realize that they don’t have to believe the lies of the rich and continue to vote them into office.
So, I admit this all may seem mysterious, but isn’t that the way God is supposed to work? And sometimes it’s the small things, those that seem silly and trite, that set the big changes in motion.
If you were God for a day and could do one small thing, a seemingly insignificant event, what would it be?
If you look up the word Ironman in the dictionary, don’t be surprised to find Adam Fray’s photo in the margin running alongside the definitions.
“Adam Frey was one of the greatest high school wrestlers of his era, no doubt,” said Bob Preusse, director of the infamous Ironman Tournament. “He was an all-decade wrestler, and a man, too.”
I’ve never written a blog about wrestling, and when I came across Adam Frey’s story, I realized it was overdue. But Adam was a hell of a lot more than just an athlete.
The Ironman. Doesn’t the name say it all? The Walsh Jesuit Ironman is undoubtedly the most prestigious and big-gun draw of high school wrestling tournaments. How tough is the Ironman? If you merely placed in your state high school tournament, you’d stand a better chance for survival floating with shark chum in the waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
There is a featured match on YouTube from 2004 between the late great Adam Frey (Blair Academy) and Matt Dunn from Reynolds High School in Pennsylvania. The two were wrestling for the Ironman title, and the action is so fierce that even a viewer who has never attended a wrestling match will find it compelling.
Frey and Dunn were both from Pennsylvania’s tough Shaler Township area. Frey won two National Prep Championships, and Dunn would place 1, 3, 2, 1 in the Pennsylvania state meet during his four-year high school career.
They knew each other when they were five years old,” said Adam’s mother Cindy. “When Adam found out Matt had also won his semi-final match at The Ironman, he told me ‘I have Burrhead next.’”
The nickname was one Dunn had received from the coach of the kids’ wrestling program they were enrolled in.
The Walsh Jesuit gymnasium on finals night of the Ironman Tournament is filled beyond capacity, and if you aren’t lucky enough to find a seat in the bleachers or a wall to stand against, your only option is to sit cross-legged on the floor matside. It’s an incredible environment to compete in.
There is immediate action once the whistle blows to begin the first period. Dunn looks like he’s a weightclass larger than Frey, and his height advantage and reach plague the Blair Academy star the entire six minutes. The wrestlers trade shots and counters, but Frey, who was the number one seed in this tournament and ranked first nationally at the time, eventually gets the takedown.
There is a point about halfway through the match when the commentators FINALLY acknowledge that Dunn is no pushover. And by the start of the third period, everyone in the gymnasium knows it, too. Dunn has gone ahead 4-3. He begins the period in the up position and digs his spurs deep for a real broncobuster ride. Then Dunn locks in a cradle, and Frey is in jeopardy of giving up a big three-pointer. He somehow fights it off and gets out of bounds, but the official penalizes him one point for fleeing. Frey takes an injury time-out, and the crowd boos. He seems to be tired and in need of a break.
“The crowd was pretty loud at that point,” said Dunn. “I didn’t really think anything of it, though.”
Frey escapes quickly once action resumes, and the score is 5-4. Dunn almost secures a deal-sealing takedown, but the bout is stopped because the move is potentially dangerous. It is a good call. With just seconds to go, Frey amazingly hits an inside trip and gets the takedown and 6-5 win.
“I was never in doubt of Adam not coming through in that match,” said Blair Academy head coach Jeff Buxton. “That last takedown demonstrated his willingness to win and how technical a wrestler he was. Every time Adam stepped on the mat, I felt he could win.”
Matt Dunn went on to compete for Columbia University. Adam Frey wrestled for Cornell and was the 2006-07 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. In 2008, he was in an automobile accident, and after routine tests, it was discovered that he had cancer.
Adam Frey may have been a formidable competitor, but his ferociousness on the mat paled compared to his war against cancer. He underwent chemotherapy, yet was more concerned with the other patients. He began blogging about his experience, and a month before he passed away, he wrote ‘hopefully, life outside chemo and the sickness will be comfortable.’ Possibly his greatest achievement in his too-short life was the creation of The Adam Frey Foundation, a non-profit that provides money to cancer patients to be used for food, gas, and prescriptions. To make donations, or for more information, click on Adam Frey or email Cindy Frey at pawrcoa at aol.com.
Lou Gehrig was the Iron Horse of Major League Baseball. Maybe Adam Frey was wrestling’s Iron Man. Watch over this little brother, Lou. He was the pride of so many.
I would not be just a nuffin’
My head all full of stuffin’
If I only had a brain
I sometimes wonder where certain people leave their brains, and this was most apparent a month ago when I saw a television news conference with Steve Williams. Williams is from New Zealand, but his fame comes from being Tiger Woods’ caddy.
When Williams went public, it was to criticize Woods for his recent marital strife. Presently, it’s a rough economy, and I’m sure Tiger’s absence from the PGA has hurt Williams financially. The caddy most likely gets paid only when Tiger swings the clubs. Woods will lose about half his fortune to his wife as they recede into divorce, but it still leaves him with plenty. But when I heard Williams speak out against his boss, I cringed. I figured Steve would be looking for new employment, and he wouldn’t be listing Tiger as a reference.
How wrong I was.
Tiger’s comeback began April 8th in Augusta, Georgia at The Masters. And trudging just behind him was Williams, dressed in a slightly oversized white jumpsuit and stooped from the heavy bag and golf clubs. He reminded me of Bill Murray’s character Carl in Caddyshack when the imbecile groundskeeper had to scrub and disinfect the country club swimming pool because a stray Baby Ruth candy bar was mistaken for doodoo.
I hadn’t thought too much about Tiger or Steve until I saw the first round of golf Thursday. I honestly don’t believe the public knows the entire story concerning Tiger’s marital problems, and we aren’t entitled to one. I personally don’t buy the ‘sex addict’ excuse, because that’s all it is. I think ‘sex addict’ is a bunch of baloney 99% of the time. If a man was truly a sex addict, his wife would never be allowed to leave their bedroom, and I guarantee that most who use that as an excuse for adultery rarely touch their spouses.
But I was struck hard by something else today.
Every time Tiger approached a green to putt, the surrounding crowd stood and cheered him. Some of the golfers in other groups had to hold up play until the applause and noise stopped. Like Michael Jordan, Woods is one of those rare winners who everybody loves. Golf fans want to see him compete, and they don’t mind if he wins. It’s not the same for Kobe and the Lakers, or Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees. Fans outside LA and NY love rooting against those players and their teams. People love winners, but not if they keep winning.
Such is not the case with Tiger.
I think Woods has something special. Maybe it’s Teflon. Or maybe he’s really a nice guy, a kid still, and the fact that he continued to employ Williams, even after the caddy panicked and made some crappy remarks about him publicly, says a ton.
I’ll be rooting for Tiger this weekend.
I wear a size 11 shoe, although it gets boosted to size 12 when I buy cowboy boots. I’ve had those size 11’s pressed against my tongue too many times, and it’s been a perfect fit.
I’ve experienced two instances of foot-in-mouth that were showstoppers, where even before I was finished blurting stupidities, the room had gone tornado quiet. And both times were coincidentally at Thanksgiving Day gatherings.
The first was at the home of Janelle Malone’s parents. Janelle was a regular on the award-winning TV show ‘The West Wing.’ This was a large gathering of friends and family, which meant there was no shortage of witnesses.
Now, I’m not denying that what I spouted didn’t contain some truth, but it just wasn’t the time or place to do it. The conversation was about Hollywood, and maybe (most likely) the Cabernet Sauvignon prodded and prompted me, but I listened intently until a lull occurred, then jumped in with both feet, and proclaimed that producers were Hollywood’s maggots, bloodsuckers who really wanted to be actors, directors, and even writers for God’s sake, but that they just lacked the talent.
Nobody answered, although Janelle’s uncle left the room quickly. Then my girlfriend at the time leaned over, hissed at me that the uncle was a producer, then got up like I was some bad stink, and moved away to sit someplace else.
Another slice of pumpkin pie, please.
The other time was at a Turkey Day gathering of musicians. Halfway through dinner, a small group of ragomuffin kids in their early twenties arrived. Introductions were made, they grabbed plates, and several conversations sprouted around the table. I was involved in a dialogue that was less than interesting, so when I heard the host talking at the opposite end of the long table about the band Little Feat, I decided to focus my attention there.
Now, I’ve never owned a Little Feat record, but I did like that song ‘Willin.’ So, I had to yell across the table that Little Feat pretty much sucked except for that one song, and that I never understood what the big deal was with that band. Again, everyone went quiet. Then, one of the ragomuffins, a kind of shy-seeming kid, told me that his father was Lowell George, one of Little Feat’s founders. The host confirmed this by slowly nodding at me.
Yep, and what else ya’ got for dessert?
So, admit it; these two examples are tough to top. But if you can, let’s hear about your worst moment.
“Babe, don’t you trust me?”
Hard to believe, but a Hollywood producer named Anthony actually said that to me ten years ago when I expressed my trepidation about turning over a screenplay I had been hired to rewrite before we ever signed a contract regarding the amount of money I’d been promised
I didn’t take the bait, and we signed a one-page agreement a lawyer-friend of mine drew up. It was last-minute, and Anthony acted as if I’d betrayed him. It was a good thing I did this, because he ignored me and all communications when it came time to cough up the money. The signed agreement held, and a lawyer got my pay for me.
But I should have known what was in store when I was hired. Anthony’s partner – Pierce O’Donnell – was a big-shot Hollywood lawyer who made a fortune representing a client in a lawsuit against Paramount and Eddie Murphy. O’Donnell is humongous and resembles a Hefty trash bag filled with pudding. Their company was named Interlight Pictures, and I can only think they meant Innerlight. Interlight is not a word. Can’t be found in the dictionary, and if it could be, what would it mean? The light in between light?
The real indication should have been the first draft they gave me to rewrite. It was written by them, and I have never read anything so poorly composed since I’ve been in Hollywood. I thought lawyers were supposed to know how to write, but maybe O’Donnell was just the idea man and the real work was left up to Anthony.
The screenplay was called Home Team and was about a boy’s orphanage and their soccer team. Sounds compelling, right? (“Please, Sir, can I have some more porridge?”) I took three weeks off my job as a bartender and hammered it out. The problem was that we’d have these meetings (and they included Anthony’s wife,) and they’d request ridiculous changes that contradicted each other because each partner wanted his own ideas to remain. Dealing with these stinkers was more work than the actual writing. But in the end, I delivered their turd back to them, but with gold-plating.
Home Team was actually made, and it starred Steve Gutenberg. I don’t know Mr. Gutenberg, but I just wonder what awful thing he did to be sentenced to a project like that. I never bothered buying the DVD when it came out because I’d been told my work had been beyond terrible and that they were unable to use even one page of what I’d written.
Two years ago, out of interest, my wife ordered Home Team. We watched the thing, and I was amazed to discover that most of the movie was the screenplay I had written. Even names of my friends and nephews that I had used for some of the characters in Home Team were the same.
Writers tend to get taken advantage of. Like many musicians, painters, or other artists, they aren’t so savvy to illegalities and the swill who employ those tactics. But I beat them. I was able to put together a down-payment for my house with what they paid me. And best of all, my name was not attached to an embarrassment like Home Team.
Please don’t rent or buy Home Team. I’m not bitter. I just don’t want you wasting money. But you can tell me your best Hollywood story.
I can’t sit still in traffic or wait for green lights. I have no patience, although it probably doesn’t help that my car’s stereo system isn’t working, but that’s a recent development. My dissatisfaction with remaining stationary in a car goes back to my youth, well before my sixteenth birthday when I began driving.
My father could never sit still. Neither can I. While reading, eating, or watching a movie, his leg would jiggle up and down. It wasn’t a nervous motion, and he never seemed high-strung. I can only compare it to a cat’s purring. It was his ohm, his inner calm manifesting itself as a motion.
I do the same thing. My wife has to reach over and settle my leg if we are sitting on the couch. And my impatience in a car comes from my father also. When we’d go see the Cleveland Indians play downtown at the old Municipal Stadium, most of the ride was through alleys and back lots so we didn’t have to sit in traffic. My father was the king of short cuts.
I’ll let you in on a secret, a pair of favorite short cuts of mine. The first is the #2 freeway. We live in Koreatown, and this is the best way to get out to Pasadena and those cities. I’ve traveled that route and have never seen traffic stopped or even slowed. But my favorite, my crowning achievement, is The Grove parking structure.
I’ll do anything to avoid the tangled mess and delay that seems constant at Fairfax and Beverly. So I cut through The Grove parking structure. It sounds ridiculous, but it absolutely saves time. I’ll drive in, get a parking ticket, then continue right on through to the other side. The first thirty minutes are free, so it costs nothing, although I’d gladly pay a few dollars if it meant avoiding traffic congestion. And if you have guests from out of town with you, it’s very impressive.
So, what’s your favorite short cut?
I once knew a kid with syndactyly, the condition of having fused digits. We called it webbed hands. He was not an exceptional swimmer, and I often wondered why his parents didn’t have his fingers surgically separated. This was in Ohio, and during the winter, when the rest of us wore gloves, this youngster was stuck with yarn mittens his grandmother knitted. Maybe it took a wife who wanted him to wear a wedding band to finally push him into getting the webbing removed. I don’t know. I lost track of him.
I was speaking to a patron recently where I tend bar, and she was complaining about carpal tunnel syndrome. She’s twenty-four years old, and believes that her condition was caused from being at her computer keyboard, browsing the web.
My favorite two characters with syndactyly would have to be Arty the Aqua Boy from Katherine Dunn’s classic novel ‘Geek Love,’ and the monster from the 1950’s horror classic ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon.’ Both just wanted someone to love, although Arty is a much more difficult character to like.
I’ve never had webbing between my fingers, or my toes for that matter. I’ve also never suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, which is amazing, since I’ve tended bar for nearly twenty-five years, and I can’t think of many occupations that strain the wrists more. I spend far too much time at the computer. I have a monthly column in ‘Amateur Wrestling News’ called On the Mat with YouTube where I choose a wrestling match that’s posted on the sight and then interview the two wrestlers involved. It’s an extremely popular feature, and when I attend college and International matches on the west coast, people recognize me from the photo that heads my column.
I use the web for research, like anyone who writes, although most of my time is spent watching YouTube. Of course I see lots of wrestling footage, but I sometimes need a break, so I watch things that have nothing to do with the world’s oldest and greatest sport. Other than ‘Chris Taylor Suplay,’(this defines bravery!) here are my favorite three postings on YouTube;
1. Chicken Police – You won’t believe this one, and might stop eating chicken.
2. Nora the piano playing cat – She really plays, and I’d give ten dogs to have a cat like this.
3. Ricky Skaggs and Earl Scruggs playing ‘Ruby’ –Ricky is only seven in this amazing footage. And you know what? Nobody needs an electric guitar or drums to rock hard!
What is your favorite YouTube posting?