Rasslin’ with my dad

I can’t speak for its literary merits but this is the most fun I ever had writing a post. It deserves a reprise.


One of the few places my dad took my brother and I when we were kids was the professional wrestling matches in the old, now demolished, Cleveland Arena on Euclid Avenue. The Cleveland Area was the site for Alan Freed’s Moondog Coronation Ball, which is considered to be the first rock and roll concert. The show was oversold and ended in a near riot (of course).

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A snowy night at the Cleveland Arena

The Arena might’ve had historical value but by the time we were going there for wrestling matches it had become a broken down hulk in a terrible neighborhood. One night, we saw some poor guy get hit by a car that must have been going 60 mph down Euclid. It happened right in front of us. He was knocked high into the air and was spinning with his arms and legs spread out like a pinwheel. He was carrying a box of popcorn and he never let go. He hit the street and the popcorn flew everywhere. My dad said, “Do you guys want to go have a look?!” We said no thanks, dad. I knew he wanted to.

My brother and I were big wrestling fans. We watched Championship Wrestling on channel 43 and Big Time Wrestling on channel 61.Going downtown to see our heroes do battle in the flesh thrilled my tiny 10-year old bones to the very marrow. I had NO IDEA the matches were fixed and the outcomes predetermined and I was embarrassingly old when I finally realized it.

This was Bobo Brazil.

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A massive black man. A face. (That‘s what they called the good guys.) During one match we attended, Bobo’s head was smashed into the turnbuckle by the heel. (That‘s what they called the bad guys.) While he was shaking his head and regaining his senses, the heel snuck a metal folding chair into the ring and smashed Bobo over the head a few times. The ref didn’t see the chair. That should’ve been my tip-off that something was up.

A huge black woman sitting behind me started crying hysterically. Real tears and weeping! She stood up and started screaming at the top of her lungs, “Git up Bobo! Git UP!” Our seats were so far away that there’s no way he heard her.

Of course, Bobo got up. (They always got up.) And, boy, was he upset about the folding chair. Every wrestler had a signature closing move that got him out of a jam and Bobo’s was the Coco Butt. It’s an exotic name for a head-butt. He applied a few Coco Butts to the heel and the woman behind me started laughing and shouting, “That’s RIGHT Bobo! That’s RIGHT! KILL him! KILL HIM!” It was fantastic.

This hairy bastard was Wild Bull Curry.

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A heel. During one match at the Arena, someone about 20 rows up held up a big, cardboard sign that said, “BOOOO! FAKE!” I was incredulous. What do you mean fake!? Wild Bull was even angrier. He climbed out of the ring, ran through the crowd, up into the stands, grabbed the sign and ripped it to shreds. In hindsight, I think it might’ve been a plant but it was genuine drama to me at the time.

This was my favorite heel. Pamparo Firpo, the Wild Beast from the Pampas.

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When he appeared on TV, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. He had a voice like gravel and would punctuate his sentences with, “Oohhhh YEAAAAHH! He would drool into his beard. He’d taunt his opponents while petting a shrunken head (shown above). His closing move was the Claw Hold. He would clamp his big hand on the top of his opponent’s skull and squeeeeeze. His opponents would howl in pain. God, I loved it.

This was Johnny Powers, The Man of the Hour. He was the biggest face in Cleveland. A pretty boy. A star.

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His closing move was the Power Lock (shown above). He’d get his opponent’s legs all twisted up and they’d be in so much agony they’d tap out. But then, disaster struck. A heel (I forgot which one) discovered a COUNTER MOVE to the Power Lock. (You roll over.) It was a sad Saturday afternoon when that happened.

Power’s arch nemesis was Reginald Love. He and his brother, Hartford Love, were The Love Brothers.

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They were the heel’s heel. They dressed in hippie beads and psychedelic wrestling tights. I later discovered that they weren’t actually brothers. And Reginald and Hartford weren’t even their real names. They said they chose those names because they “wanted to sound like snobs.”

Once on Championship Wrestling, Powers was admiring a wristwatch that’d just been presented to him for his birthday by the Cleveland chapter of the Johnny Powers Fan Club. Reginald walked into the studio, made fun of the watch and called Powers “a donkey.” Powers said, “I have something you don’t have…fans.” Reginald countered with, “Well, I have something you don’t have…A HAMMER!” He pulled a hammer out of his back pocket and smashed the watch to bits. They started wrestling on the studio floor. Excellent! I read in a Powers interview years later that he had no idea Reginald was going to do that. It was completely unscripted. He was genuinely angry that the watch had been smashed.

This was more than a decade before Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and the rest of those pussies showed up. It lost something for me when it became stadium spectacular. The only wrestler from that era worth a damn was Brutus the Barber Beefcake. His closing move was to knock his opponent out with a sleeper hold and give them a really shitty haircut. That took balls.

One evening on the way home from the matches we stopped at the L&K Diner for sundaes. My dad started flirting with the much younger waitress. She asked how he wanted his coffee and he said, “Blonde. Like you.” and winked. I was embarrassed.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

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October 7, 1991

The people below me are fighting again. They’re so loud that I can understand what they’re saying without laying down and pressing my ear to the floorboards, which is what I usually have to do. It’s not as bad as last time. Last time I heard them wrestling and throwing things at each other. Stuff was smashing against the wall and furniture was toppling over.

Oscar is stuck with a horrible boyfriend. Everyone tells him he should walk out. He hangs on because he says he too homely to find someone else. I wonder if that’s how I’ll end up? I invited Lucy to a movie preview tomorrow night. It’s at the Warner Brothers screening room up on 6th Avenue. I’m hoping it serves as a powerful aphrodisiac.

I got very, very drunk at Dorothy’s dinner party but I didn’t make a fool of myself (so I’m told). She did a very sweet thing. We were discussing caviar. I told her I was a virgin and wasn’t going to try any until I could get my hands on black Beluga. I wanted my first taste to be the best, most expensive stuff there is. The conversation was a while ago and I’d forgotten all about it.

When I got to her apartment no one was there. It was a half hour before anybody else arrived. I took my coat off and sat down. She went to the kitchen and brought out a tin of black caviar on a silver tray. She served it with plain crackers and hard boiled eggs. We spooned it with a tiny, delicate silver spoon. She opened a bottle of champagne, too. I liked it.

Randy Brecker lives across the hall and was there. We spoke for a long while but I didn’t bring up music or his career or let on that I knew who he was because I thought it would’ve been tacky. I don’t think anyone else knew who he was. We stood in the kitchen and talked trash about the people at the table.

After a few drinks I wasn’t so concerned about being tacky and told him I had Heavy Metal Be-Bop, but I lost it when I moved from Phoenix to New York. I didn’t lose ALL my albums. Just SOME of them, including that one. He offered me a replacement and was nice enough to go across the hall and fetch a CD for me. I told him his trumpet on Springsteen’s Meeting Across the River and Rundgren’s Hello It’s Me is the best part of those songs. And I wasn’t blowing smoke up his rear. I really feel that way. A nice guy. Afterwards, Dorothy told me he fights with his Japanese wife. Everyone fights.

After dinner we moved the furniture, blasted her stereo and danced like crazy people. I was completely soaked with sweat. I felt bad for the people I talked to because I held a folded paper towel and was constantly blotting my face, neck, arms, etc. Disgusting. There were some single women there and it was fun to flirt but I didn’t leave with any phone numbers. One girl was really drunk and really forward and I didn’t love that.

I finally got home at 3:00. Went to bed and had terrible bed spins so I got up, sat in the living room and watched the cats fight. For some reason, I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen and was buckled over with hysterics. I almost threw-up.


“Daddy, can you help me with my math homework?”

“Sure, honey.”

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I blanked out. I had no idea how to solve this. I didn’t know how to begin. Do you know how humiliating it is to not be able to help my NINE YEAR OLD daughter solve her 4th GRADE math problem? I sent it to my best pal, the accountant. He said it was a tough one but he figured it out. She hasn’t asked me for help since. I hate my lack of education.

Meanwhile, in 8th grade science:

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WTF?!

Children of alcoholic parents

Six powerful paragraphs from my UK blog buddy, Graham, about the hard road he, his wife and daughter traveled to his sobriety. A beautiful piece. Everything I know about alcoholism I learned through this guy’s URL.

Guitars and Life

Recently highlighted by BBC news is a campaign by Liam Byrne MP who is trying to get a national strategic plan and more helplines for children of alcoholics to get support from.  My daughter brought this to my attention as she had heard an article about it on the radio yesterday.  The figures quoted are that currently in the UK there are 2.6million children living with a parent who has a problem with alcohol.

In discussing this with my daughter she stated that she frankly didn’t even consider me as being part of her life until she was about 10 – 11.  I got sober when she was 8.  How did I feel about that?  Firstly it didn’t surprise me.  I have very few memories of my daughter as a small child.  I was into my last few years of heavy drinking, I was avoiding responsibility and was frankly simply zonked…

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Would you autograph your book for me?

I was perusing the fall author appearance schedule at the 5th Avenue and Union Square Barnes & Nobel. I like getting signed first editions. I have shelves full of them. Sara Bareilles is coming in October and I had absolutely no idea who she was so I clicked on the More Information link. To wit:

Special Instructions

  • Wristband event
  • No memorabilia
  • No posed photography
  • Two books per person limit
  • Purchases starting 9:00AM the day of the event and join the signing line outside the front of the store.

Sara Bareilles will only be signing her new title Sounds Like Me. Event guidelines are subject to change. Please follow instructions given by the events team. In advance, the courtesy of your cooperation is appreciated.

Please follow instructions. In other words, to borrow a famous New York Daily News headline:

Sara Bareilles To Fans: DROP DEAD

Carrie Brownstein will also hit the road this fall to shill her memoir. I’ll bet it’s thrilling. A New York Times fluff piece said:

…she’s relieved that book tours are generally not as extensive as music tours. “As much as I wanted to have a stop in Indianapolis.”

Carrie Brownstein To Indianapolis: DROP DEAD

Are book tours really so arduous? Is meeting your readers such sublime torture? Don’t these frail, delicate, l’artistes realize they’ve won the lottery? I can’t stand it when people turn unimaginable success into a crushing burden.

I’ve been to PLENTY of author meet-and-greets and, for the most part, they’ve been satisfying experiences. Michael Chabon is always engaging. Sherman Alexie is the best reader out there. At one reading, I asked Nick Hornby if I could publish one of his essays in a chapbook and without blinking, he said yes. Most authors seem genuinely appreciative of their audience. But some are tormented by us.

I went to a David Foster Wallace reading. I brought three older titles with me that I wanted him to sign. When I got to the table, he sat there with his arms crossed, looking straight ahead. Not at me. The Barnes & Nobel rep said, “Mr. Wallace will only sign one old book for every new book purchased.” He looked mortified saying it.

I felt stupid and small. I tucked my tail between my legs, got out of line, bought three more new books and went to the back of the line. He then, grudgingly, signed the old titles. In hindsight, what I should have done, was chuck the new book at his stupid bandanna and told him to jam it up his ass. Christ. He’s lucky to HAVE old titles.

Look, I know getting a book autographed is trite. I’ve meditated on it and I can’t figure out its appeal. But it’s something I like to do. It’s an innocent hobby and Dear Dead David made me feel ashamed for it. He took that small joy away from me. It would’ve cost him NOTHING to just sign the fucking books and send me on my merry way.

If I’m ever lucky enough to be published and I’m sent on an author tour, here’s what you can expect from me:

  • A detailed, passionate inscription thanking you for reading my book.
  • A vigorous handshake. I might yank your arm out of its socket.
  • Two books per person limit? Feh. How many can you carry?
  • An invitation. Can I buy you a drink? Are you hungry?
  • Do your feet hurt? Can I give you a foot rub?

To all the tortured souls with impending book tours this fall, especially Carrie Brownstein and Sara Bareilles (I’m still not sure who she is), that’s how it’s done, you ingrates.

I’m on a roll. What’s my other favorite red button issue? Oh, yeah.


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Awwwww…C’MON PEOPLE! SERIOUSLY?! Is this what we’ve come to? Are we, as a society, so addicted to mobile phones that we can’t even put the damn things down long enough to take a piss? Man, are we soft. China is going to dink our milkshake. The phone did not, despite my pleadings and offerings to the various Gods and Goddesses, slip out of his hand, drop onto the urinal cake and get pissed on.

Oh, yes I did, take that picture.


Summer is over and these two are none too happy about it.

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It was a good season. Lots of sun and beach time. If this is global warming, I’ll have some more, please.

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Summer is over for my little translucent, black-eyed friend, too.

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Vincent’s Faded Flowers

I dragged everyone to the Met on Sunday afternoon to see Van Gogh: Irises and Roses. I’m pretty sure they would’ve preferred a trip to the beach instead but that’s too bad. Stuff like this is once-in-a-lifetime.

vang5This exhibit gathers four works that Van Gogh painted shortly before taking his life. All four masterpieces were completed in just ONE WEEK—an incredible burst of creativity and energy, done at the height of his madness.

They were conceived as a set and intended to be hung as you see here, vertical orientations on either end and landscape in the middle. Each vase is slightly off-center. They’re set on a table whose horizontal line runs concurrent through all four works, anchoring them. This exhibit is the first time all four paintings have been seen together since they were executed in 1890.

vang1He carefully selected colors that would compliment and play off of each other. He used paints that had unstable pigments and knew the colors would fade over time. In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote that, “Paintings fade like flowers.”

These roses were originally pink. Now, they’re a pure white.

vang4The irises, once a deep purple, are now blue.

There was an accompanying video that attempted to recreate the original colors. They used pigment analysis and detailed notes Van Gogh kept regarding his color and process, but they were just educated guesses. Nobody alive knows what these originally looked like.

vang2The girls weren’t terribly impressed with this summer’s rooftop installation but I thought it had some artistic merit. The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe starts off with a somewhat confusing displacement of paving stones. I thought it was a construction project but it’s part of the exhibit. It felt disengaged from anything having to do with art.

huyghe4On the far corner of the roof is the primary piece. The meat of the exhibit.

huyghe3Inside a giant fish tank floats (floats!) a bolder of Manhattan schist—the unique and powerful bedrock that allows skyscrapers and transit systems to be anchored to this small spit of land. The tip of the bolder peeks above the surface. A pile of sand rises to a few inches below the bolder.

huyghe5The glass randomly toggles from clear to opaque. I’m not sure how this is accomplished but it’s a nice effect.

huyghe1huyghe2Inside the fish tank are creepy, alien-like tadpole shrimp. I don’t know if they’re there for aesthetic reasons or f they provide a cleaning service. At the end of each video, you can see the glass cloud over.

The exhibit brochure is full of some artistic babble regarding the dynamic gathering of different elements—plants, stones and animals. That stuff never sinks into my thick skull. I just enjoy the visceral thrill it provides (or doesn’t). I require nothing more from the artist, least of all an explanation.


Daughter + Frank Stella’s Die Fahne hoch!

When Stella first showed this painting in 1959 people were baffled and looked for a deep meaning. He responded by saying:

“What you see is what you see. Painting to me is a brush and a bucket and you put it on a surface. There’s no other reality for me other than that.”

That sounds kind of shallow but that’s how I feel about it, too.