Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The Best Thing Ever
This one might suffer from too much in the way of prefacatory remarks, but let me merely note that I received this book as a gift at a restaurant work Christmas Party from one of the funniest busboys you'll ever meet. His inscription: "To Richard - Just thought you'd like to see a softer side of the Juice. Have a nice season!"
Without further ado ...
Trials of a Young College Columnist, Vol. II
"TKE Didn't Need To Go" - Free Press, September 20, 1993
Opening up the can of U.S.M.'s Greek Life ... not sure why I singled out Joe Austin, who TKE President Kevin Martin properly deemed a "mid-level functionary" (or something to that effect) in his letter to the editor the following week. It must have been my deeply buried crush on VP of Student Affairs Judy Ryan. (hold for laughter from the USM alumni portion of the reader base).
Monday, February 13, 2012
Trials of a Young College Columnist, Vol. I
"ZOO-S.M." - Free Press, September 13, 1993
My first published column for the Free Press. Ultimately, my point was to encourage entering first-years to avoid wholesome campus activities in favor of attending parties at my fraternity house. All in the service of the cause ....
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Concerts in Zen Part III
Coming Clean …
July 3, 1994
The Ballpark, Old Orchard Beach, Maine
1. My Friend My Friend
2 Poor Heart
3 Down With Disease
7 The Old Home Place
9 Axilla Pt. III – David Bowie
10 Split Open and Melt
12 Bouncing Around the Room
13 Its Ice
14 The Horse-Silent in the Morning
16 The Squirming Coil
17 Run Like An Antelope
18 Suzy Greenberg
So, here's an interesting one. Interesting, primarily because I have long declared myself not a Phish fan. It's just one of those things – kind of inscrutable, but so obvious that I never took any effort to attempt an explanation.
With such a plain reputation for over-explaining, this has confounded some in the past. One such time involved an acquaintance from the Damariscotta era, Bittersweet Bartender Dave. Guy had one of the most unnerving, yet funny, bartender games – upon delivering of a credit card slip back to its owner, he'd say, "… got some bad news … your card was accepted." More than one close-to-his-limit cardholder turned white at such moments.
Anyway, Dave one night reached that moment that all Phish fans reach when challenged about the purported brilliance / perfection of the Vermonsters, to the effect of "What can you say about Phish … they're amazing musicians, they put on a great live show … what? In 30 words or less, tell me why you don't like Phish."
And yet, I only needed three:
"Because they suck."
Hyperbole? Perhaps. After all, they are all fine musicians, and as this post attests, I saw them live and they did, in fact, present a thoroughly enjoyable show.
But there has always been something … I don't know … creepy about Phish fans and they way they always seem to be pushing their band upon the unwilling like door-to-door missionaries pushing their religious awakening upon those unlucky enough to open their doors.
"Just listen … the vacuum cleaner solo is coming up … Trey … so amazing!"
But alas, I yield that for an Independence Day Eve, 1994, in the buggy surrounds of Inner Old Orchard Beach, Phish provided a thoroughly enjoyable evening's worth of music, fireworks, and entertainment. Two words: The Ballpark.
For Phish fans, Maine is more memorable in their band's annals for their series of summer festivals in The County, on the decommissioned Loring Air Force Base. And yet, the more discriminating fans seem to suggest that something special occurred on that summer evening at a woods-encircled swamp where I took in my first several professional baseball experience a decade earlier.
I'll refer you to blogger Chad Finn for his sharp recollection of the semi-storied history of the Maine Guides. Here's another nice Guides-centered post. For a truly disheartening photo journey through the park as it looks today, see this website.
Otis Nixon … not a Phish fan
Alas … I won't try to recount the specifics of the show, other than my recollection of the aforementioned fireworks. Here's the version offered by one fan who provided this review of the show on a site with the subheading By Phish Fans For Phish Fans:
By this time, I noticed that it was dark outside, the stadium was packed with about three thousand people, and everyone was baked. They then played Run Like an Antelope, which was a great jam, as always. In the middle of the jam, before the vocals came on, fireworks started going off outside the show, to celebrate the fourth of July, which was the next day. When a big Phish firework exploded, the audience also exploded. Everyone was going nuts, screaming, dancing, and the band was really getting into it. They closed the second set with Suzy Greenberg, which was phat because everyone sang along with the chorus, and it was like we were all linked by this music, and the band was like a transmitter to our souls.
Well, I won't go that far, but the fireworks display, seemingly in time with the rhythm of the jam, was pretty amazing. And perhaps most amazing was that I was there at all … at a much maligned Triple A baseball stadium, cum Seashore Performing Arts Center, cum municipal tax base liability for the poor folks of Old Orchards.
This was The Ballpark. A venue not 20 minutes from my boyhood home by car, and perhaps 45 by bike. The Ballpark that paid witness to my first professional baseball games in the early 1980s, where the Maine Guides for three seasons, and Maine Phillies for one, played their home games. It later served as the venue where I would collect for free in the parking lot to hear Bob Dylan and James Taylor, and where I would inexplicably pay good money to see Europe open for Def Leppard. Yeah … The Final Countdown … Pour Some Sugar on Me … the whole bit.
Europe-ean w/ Much Hair ... not a Phish fan
Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz, in 1996, offered this bit of pondering about the stadium gone wrong:
The drone from Tommy Bill's weed whacker bounced off the center field wall and echoed back to the empty grandstand Thursday morning. Then he clicked off the machine - and The Ballpark fell silent.
''I grew up just beyond those trees,'' said Tommy, pointing through a gaping hole in the left-field fence. ''I was in seventh or eighth grade when they played the first game here. And when I was in high school in 1989, I played five games here.''
Tommy's 24 now. He's young enough to remember climbing the pine trees overlooking The Ballpark's outfield to watch Maine Guides baseball for free.
But he's old enough to know that what he saw from his perch turned out to be an illusion: The jewel Sports Illustrated once dubbed ''maybe the prettiest ballpark in creation'' has decayed into the ugliest municipal mistake in Maine - if not the most costly.
While town officials spent Thursday futilely begging the Finance Authority of Maine to forgive the $ 1.4 million they still owe on The Ballpark, Tommy went about his depressing duties inside the cavernous complex: Mow the weed-infested ''turf,'' clean up after the vandals who smash the windows and smear the knotty-pine press box with lurid obscenities, and do whatever else a young man can to keep the place from falling completely apart.
''I work for Archie St. Hilaire - I'm his cousin,'' Tommy said, referring to the promoter who now pays the town $ 75,000 a year to stage concerts and other shows at the park. Last year, it was The Horde Festival and The Royal Lipizzaner Stallions; this year, it's James Taylor, Hootie and the Blowfish and, on Saturday, a dog show.
Baseball, however, is long gone. And Tommy, who spent many a sunny day jockeying for position by the chain-link fence with a ball in one hand and a pen in the other, knows it.
''After the dog show this weekend, we're going to seed the whole field with grass,'' he said, staring glumly at the muddy infield. ''That'll be it.''
How, you wonder, could such a good thing go so bad?
And yet, it was Phish that turned in the most satisfying performance I ever took in at The Ballpark, with apologies to former Maine Guides pitcher Steve Farr, who finished 1984 with a stellar 4-0 records and 2.60 ERA before an ill-fated bump up to the big club in Cleveland.
And to think that I went, essentially against my will, courtesy of a friend who paid my way, threw me into her car, and later forced me to admit that I had a good time.
They're can steer toward annoying, their fans can be insufferable, and the vacuum thing is asinine … but they don't suck, and I'll say it again – they put on a fine live show.