Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Awesome Shea Cards - Part Two

When I was a kid, the Braves were never something you had to worry about. Eventually, the 1990's and beyond would change all that and the Braves have relentlessly haunted and humiliated the soul of every Met fan since.

But these cards come from those earlier innocuous years. Paul Zuvella's career stats boast a .222 batting average, just two home runs and 20 RBI's. His biggest claim to fame might be that spent time in the minors with the Durham Bulls (as in the film Bull Durham). I love this Shea card as its vantage point has you looking directly into the Shea visitor's dugout, which at the time was adorned with brown faux wood paneling, reminiscent of a suburban Long Island basement lounge.

Davey Johnson is another story entirely. At the time this card was made, Shea had not been kind to Davey Johnson. As an Oriole, he had made the last out to give the Mets the World Series title in 1969. In this card, we see yet another of Johnson's struggles. This card is often considered one of the most humiliating baseball cards ever made. We join Johnson mid swing, badly missing a ball which you see just to the right of him above his rump.

Johnson's card is perhaps a good life lesson. Here is a man we might assume to be beset by some Shea Stadium curse. But years would pass and circumstances would change. Johnson would become a manager. Of the Mets. And lead them to the world title in 1986.

Awesome Shea Cards - Part One

I have written about baseball cards before, largely because Josh Wilker, owner of the blog, Cardboard Gods (and now author of the book Cardboard Gods), has inspired neurotic misfit baseball-obsessed writers like myself to do so. We thank you, Josh (even though I reluctantly must forgive you for making the transition from anonymous blogger to acknowledged, Times featured author). And as I am entirely locked up with a sort of H1N1 version of writer's block, I'm afraid you (few) faithful Shelf readers are going to be subjected to some more baseball card blather. You see, it's the end of April and the Mets are somehow in first place. So despite Slimbo's usually indomitable ennui, the Mets have infused a renegade hope that now batters about, lightening my landscape. So I turn to the baseball cards of my childhood and I write.

Shea Stadium is gone. Shea is where I saw my first baseball game as a 4 year-old (Mets vs. Padres - Mets lost). It is where my team won the World Series in 1986. It is where I spent many a night in the 1990's cheering on an immeasurably flawed but incongruously likeable team. And now it's all gone.

But in baseball cards, Shea lives forever.
Here we have the blessed, sun-drenched images of Dick Tidrow and Graig Nettles from the 74-75 season. Like-minded, obsessive baseball fans should be adequately disturbed by the sight of Yankee pinstripes against the backdrop of the Shea's vacuous curves. One must remember that this is the year that Yankee Stadium (the old one) was being renovated into the lifeless, neutered entity it would be from 1976 through its eventual, excessively fawned closure in 2008.

So these pictures come from the year when Shea Stadium somehow managed to host the Mets, Yankees, as well as the New York football Jets and New York football Giants.

But something bothers me about these two cards. These Yankee icons stand in the sunlight projecting an air of ownership and entitlement. The smug look on Tidrow's face seems to preclude the success he would experience while contributing to the Yankee's championships of '77 and '78. Nettles coils back, almost challenging you to tell him that Shea is not his.

Monday, April 19, 2010

For my Dad

Today is my Dad's birthday. I did the above illustration as a gift. I've made my parents handmade cards since I was a kid and it looks as though I always will.

My dad does volunteer tax work. He helps folks who can't afford a tax accountant or who need that extra help to navigate the labyrinth of tax codes in order to maximize their credits and benefits.

It's interesting. I look at my dad and see all that he has achieved in the world of business. He created a life of comfort for our family as a result of hard work, keen instincts and a lot of luck.

I see so many men of his generation though, and when they'd attained the success my father achieved, they retreated into a world of material possessions and narrow minded convictions.

But my father isn't like that. He's different. In his retirement, he's gone back to school and committed countless hours to volunteer tax work. He's taken classes at his local college because he believes the world is an infinite place of wonder and no joy in life can replace the joy of knowledge. He does volunteer work because of his faith, and it's not a blind dogmatic faith, but a faith that believes we should always put up a fight against the darkness of our world despite humanity's immeasurable faults.

Maybe when he's doing tax returns for poor families, he remembers the times his family was broke and he had to live in an apartment with his grandparents, Irish immigrants from Galway. He knows that the slings and arrows of life can be random and senseless and that the last thing you should ever do is judge. When I was a young boy, he told me never to call anyone a 'loser'. I've never forgotten that. It's all because he knows, despite the success he attained, the last thing on earth anyone should ever do, is wall himself against the world around him and do nothing. And this is why he does tax returns for poor people.

So when I see the Tea Parties, and all the financially comfortable fat white people exhibitionistically whoring themselves into this nonsensical victim-discourse, wanting to 'take their country back', I think of my father. He's a man who's bold enough to say that despite the mountains he's conquered, he doesn't have all the answers and that maybe, the best thing to do is go back to the trenches, suspend judgement, and fight for the little guy.

Love you, dad.


The Green Genie

I played my first game of soccer tonight. It's been about six months or so. I love the game. It delivers such a narcotic sense of being alive. It's one of the things that keeps the Green Genie away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

And Where Has Slimbo Been?

I'm here, really I am.

A lot has been going on, so I'm going to give you some Slimbo's Shelf Cliff Notes in convenient Q&A format:

April 15th has come and gone. Why have we not been given the usual Slimbo diatribe about the importance of paying taxes as a by-product of the most rudimentary edicts of civic consciousness?

Because I fear Tea Baggers. The local paper I submit to, The Examiner, has frequently been giving immeasurable space to a local Tea Party jackboot named Bill B_____. Essentially I am afraid of the day he and his ilk show up at my doorstep.


Yes. Really, I'd keep kvetching on and on about Tea People if I could muster the energy but I've lost all energy for this nonsense. And I think that America has lost patience as well. Come November America's attention span for this will have fizzled out.

Charles M. Blow had this great article in today's Times about his experience attending a Tea Party in Texas.

Ahem...The New York Mets?

Oh, the Mets. People are panicking here in New York but I'm not. It's way to early to panic. But I do predict that Jerry Manuel's days are numbered, unfortunately. I liked him. Yes, I predict Manuel will be out and the Mets won't go to the post-season. Some panic at this, but I have just come to accept it.

What are you reading?

I'm halfway through Vol 1 of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I'm hoping to finish all volumes before I turn 50, which is thirteen years away. (Holy shit, I turn 50 in thirteen years!)

I'm looking for something else to read while reading Proust. Do you ever read two books at once?





No, I'm just the voice in your head asking you questions. I ask the questions here.


Are you painting?


Are you writing?



Well, I did submit an article about summer jobs I held back in my Memphis days. I submitted it to the Commercial Appeal but haven't heard back yet. I'll post a link if they pick it up.

Other than that, I got nothing.

You suck.


Saturday, April 10, 2010


I want to talk to you about your diabeetuz.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Highway 61

It is universally understood that Highway 61, that stretch of road that extends south from Memphis into Mississippi, is sacred ground. This road has been immortalized many times, most famously by John Hammond's two trophy bookends, bluesman Robert Johnson and icon Bob Dylan. Should someone should ever ask you, 'hey, where you headed?' I'm not sure that any resident of Planet Earth could offer any answer cooler than: 'I'm headin' down Highway 61."

Highway 61 begins in Memphis - downtown Memphis. [The church I used to attend is there, St. Peter's, a Dominican parish]. Downtown Memphis has two Downtowns. The 'North End', also called 'the Pinch', was where the European immigrants (and there were many in the 1800's because of The River) settled. The 'South End was an African American neighborhood. This is where Beale Street could be found. This is where the Lorraine Motel is. This is where the real Highway 61 begins.

Heading south, Highway 61 quickly frees itself from the mechanics of downtown Memphis and an anonymous industrial area greets you next. Next is a fleeting abyss of strip malls, cheap hotels and temporary storage unit facilities. Then Highway 61 unfolds into the rolling rural stretch of road that I've tried to portray in this illustration.

[I write this having encapsulated this place as it was in 1992. That was almost two decades ago. God knows it must have changed. ]

There are Casinos in Tunica, Mississippi. They arrived in the early 90's. Casinos seemed to have infiltrated incongruous and legally ambiguous places throughout America and now I'm never surprised to stumble across one.

In the early 90's, I'd just relocated to Memphis. It was hard and I'd been consumed with an intransigent depression brought about by the pain of homesickness and the ache brought on by the absence of females in my all-boys school.

But then I found the guitar. My newfound love of blues music propelled me to align the guitar into my life and I realized I could play it well. Then I found Memphis' WEVL, a listener supported station that played blues standards deep into the night. I'd found blues. I'd found some something, and it made me feel that the abyss I carried about was not something penitentually unique but rather in sync with something cosmic, beyond me, perhaps an unseen discourse awaiting my participation.


Drive south from Memphis. The hills will roll and the trees will close in. You will pass over a ridge. I'm hoping that my illustration gives you a fraction of what this moment might be like. You pass over this bluff. And shortly thereafter, your car bottoms out into the flattest place you'll ever know.

This is the Delta. But before you hit this point, your car negotiates these mystical bluffs, wondering what's coming next...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Inspired by Louis Simpson

The following work was inspired by a poem by Louis Simpson called 'The Unwritten Poem". I made these drawings in 2006 when I was in a bit of a crisis. I knew I had to get away from Lehman Brothers, but I had no clue what else it was I could be doing with my life.

The final lines of Simpson's poem are:

You must rise to the sound of the alarm
and march to catch the 6:20-
watch as they ascend the station platform
and, grasping briefcases, pass beyond your gaze
and hurl themselves into the flames.

And so here is Slimbo's rendering:

In Search of Lost Time

Since I dropped out of the NYC Half Marathon (with bad knees and ankles - that's my excuse) I'm reading all seven volumes of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, a marathon in its own right.

I've set no time limits and realize that this project will take me years to accomplish. But I plan on reading In Search of Lost Time while also reading other books as well. So no rush.

I've been feeling an nagging absence of accomplishment lately. I was supposed to have written a novel by now and have started two within the last six months, both of which died after 100 pages. Slimbo's Shelf readers still number in the single digits. And with 40 heading down the pike, I have the stinging realization that career-wise, I'll be at the same place at 40 that I was at 27. I've peaked and my peak is a foothill, so to speak.

Most people would Tony-Robbins themselves into some sort of reconstructive, empowering metamorphosis and seize this crossroads to transform into America's Next Great Success Story. But not me. Fuck that. I've decided to retreat into the world of a century-old 4,000+ page text.

What's your evasive means of coping with the onset of middle age? Do tell!

Opening Day

Today was Opening Day for the New York Mets season. In grand fashion, they throttled the Marlins 7-1.

In honor of this event, I'd like to submit this video for your viewing pleasure. This is a home video taken by a pair of Mets fans in 1982. The ten minute clip encapsulates their drive into Shea Stadium, shows some snippets of the game and then takes you to the wonderful world of the post-game parking lot. Try and get past the annoying narration because there are a few important things I want you to take note of here:

1. In the first few minutes, you're in the car with them going over the Whitestone bridge. Look at the cars. Listen to the radio. This is a wonderful time capsule.

2. At minute 2:23, they show you people brazenly breaking into Shea Stadium. The malaise of 1970's New York City hadn't quite worn off yet. In the world of Generalisimo Giuliani's New York, these men would have been shot on sight. (And then I ask you - which world is better?)

3. At minute 5:33 - yup, that's Pete Rose in his brief stint on the Phillies.

4. Minute 7:50 -Okay, so we're back outside the stadium after the game. One of the film's two narrators is giving an amateur post-game wrap-up. The camera pans out and you see a fan urinating against a fence. In the background you hear heckling and the Number 7 train. Just awesome!

5. Minute 8:20 - Our filmmakers are driving away now, but before they do, they capture the image of a group of young men trying to free a pickup truck from the mud. In the background you see Shea Stadium, newly stripped of its once-famous blue and orange panels. Over the radio, listen to that wonderful post-game music. Sure, those guys will free that vehicle from the mud, but then where do they go?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Trouble With Ben

Harriet and David have four children. They've always wanted a house full of children, even if the administration of such a life might put a strain on their finances. They'd met during the swinging 60's when the traditional bountiful home life they envisioned was out of vogue.

All initially goes well. They have four beautiful, gifted, gentle children. Then Harriet becomes pregnant again and the child in her womb is clearly different. He mercilessly terrorizes Harriet from within. Harriet is relieved to finally give birth to this new child, Ben, but Ben's raucous prenatal treatment is nothing compared to what comes next.

David and Harriet's fifth child is different and they clearly have no idea how to handle him. He is a monstrous baby who is never sated when fed and seems immune to the calming benefits of affection. What are they to do? Ben grows and grows into a troll-like child and he possesses a physical strength that is juxtapositioned against a demeanor that appears impervious to human tenderness or empathy.

Professionals are called in but none of them seem able to comprehend Harriet and David's horror. They seem to either want to mindlessly exterminate Ben or vilify Harriet and David for not accommodating this fifth child with love even though he doesn't conform to their first four children's characteristics.

This is a horrifying story and incredibly haunting. Lessing is accomplishing a couple of key points with this book. First, she is trying to illustrate the all-encompassing world of having a special-needs child. The arrival of Ben initially consumes Harriet but soon infiltrates each member of the family. Could the family's eventual unravelling have been avoided?

Secondly, the placement of Ben's birth and upbringing makes him a metaphor for Britain in the 1980's. The staid world of Harriet and David, rooted in England's hierarchical traditions can not make sense of the nihilistic violence seen in those elements of post-war Britain that manifested itself in the Punk movement or the methodical, systematic plague of football hooliganism.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


More from Spaceman Spaceman

Marshall Frog

I drew this for my daughter one rainy afternoon when we had nothing to do. Marshall Frog was a stuffed animal I had when I was a kid. I've often been told that I should be creating children's books but..I don't know. I thought about it after finishing this work, but the thought of devoting the next three months to drawing frogs and toads overwhelmed me. I'm not sure that my world view is best suited for creating nourishing content for future minds.