Tuesday, January 31, 2012



Back when I was a youngster there were no home video games, iPods, or cell phones. And, in fact, there were very few malls. So we boys spent most of our time playing sports. It was always Twinkie, Wally Murphy, my brother Napoleon, and me (plus whoever else had found a way out of doing their household chores) and we were always playing something.

If we weren’t involved in an organized baseball game at Sunset Little League then it means we were out on the street playing Wiffle Ball. Or if it wasn’t that, then we were at Marine Park playing tackle football, Over-The-Line, or Pickle. How many boys today could even explain Over-The-Line or Pickle?

Pickle – as in “you’re in a pickle” – was a way for three boys to practice their base-stealing skills. One kid would be trying to see how many bases he could steal back-and-forth, while the other two boys were trying to get him in a run-down and tag him out. The player who managed to steal the most consecutive bases by the end of the Pickle session was the winner. And a Pickle session ended when the boys were too tired to run anymore or when it was time to go home for dinner. Meaning, of course, the latter, because we boys NEVER reached a point where we were too tired to run anymore! For Twinkie, Wally, Nappy, and I, the bases at Marine Park were usually represented by two trees. (I wonder how big those trees are today!)

And if we weren’t playing Little League Baseball, Wiffle Ball, tackle football, Over-The-Line, or Pickle, then it means we could be found in the backyard playing “Birdie Ball” - a form of baseball we had invented using a miniature souvenir bat and badminton birdies.

Anyway, there were very few fat kids during my boyhood era because we were all too busy playing sports. We never thought of it as “exercising”.

Nowadays, there are a lot of fat kids around because the only thing they exercise are their thumbs via texting and Xbox (“virtual” sports).

In that same era, Twinkie, Wally, Nappy and I also drank a good deal of YOO-HOO. Yoo-Hoo, which is still around today, is a chocolate flavored beverage. I would describe it as tasting like a nonfat or lowfat chocolate milk.

Of course, the packaging design changed a great deal over the years, but back in ‘The Days Of Pickle’, the labels used to say Shake! It’s Great!” and also A Chocolate Flavored ACTION Drink.

Although in our Santa Monica stores we always found Yoo-Hoo bottled, read the label on the second can from the left in the photo below:

You always had to shake a Yoo-Hoo well before drinking it because otherwise all the chocolate syrup would be coagulated at the bottom of the bottle. Shake! It’s Great!”

About three years ago, Yoo-Hoo entered into a conversation that brother Nappy and I were having about “the good ol’ days”. And recalling how the labels used to read “A Chocolate Flavored ACTION Drink”, I jokingly remarked: “Forget Gatorade. Yoo-Hoo was America’s first sports drink!”

I thought that was kinda funny in a facetious sorta way. That is until a year later when I acquired a copy of ‘THE YOGI BOOK: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said!’ by Yogi Berra.

You know Yogi, right? The great Hall Of Fame catcher who played for the New York Yankees and who is almost as well known for all his famous malapropistic sayings.

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

“It’s déjà vu all over again!”

“We were overwhelming underdogs.”

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

“We’re lost, but we’re making good time!”

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

“If people don’t want to come to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?”

And many more . . .

Well, I was greatly surprised to discover in ‘THE YOGI BOOK’ that way back when – long before I was drinking Yoo-Hoo and playing Pickle with the boys - Yogi and some of his Yankees teammates were acting as spokesmen for that “Chocolate Flavored ACTION Drink”. So, in a sense, I mighta been sorta correct: It seems Yoo-Hoo might really have been advertised as America’s first "sports" drink. (And here I thought I was being clever!)

And wouldn’t you know it? There’s even a screwy Yogi Berra remark associated with Yoo-Hoo! ‘THE YOGI BOOK’ contains this little anecdote:

At a YOO-HOO convention, a woman asked Yogi, “Is Yoo-Hoo hyphenated?” Yogi answered, “No, ma’am, it isn’t even carbonated!”

One of my favorite players on the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks team was Reggie Sanders. He only played that one season with the D-Backs, but he had a pretty good year for a power-hitting outfielder: .263 Average; 33 Home Runs; 90 RBI; 14 Stolen Bases.

I’d noticed that Sanders had a quirky little habit. When he was standing near home plate, about to enter the batter’s box, he would often hold his baseball bat at the center of the thick barrel and shake it back and forth three or four times. Whenever I saw him doing that in important, pressure situations, just for good luck, I would call out to Reggie through the TV screen, “Shake your Yoo-Hoo!” It was amazing how often that seemed to bring positive results.

Hey, baby, show us your Yoo-Hoo! . . .

Hmmm... I think I’d rather have Yoo-Hoo in me than on me.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


“Well, Stephen’s just going through a phase”, you could frequently and correctly say. It’s true, I have always tended to go through various phases.

There have been music phases, where for weeks all I’d want to listen to is Pat Metheny, or Glenn Miller, or Bob Dylan, or Tom Waits. I once got on a Blues kick that lasted for over a year, and every few years I’ll find myself going through yet another Mahalia Jackson phase that lasts for a week or two.

It’s happened with books also. I burned through a New Age spirituality phase; a Chistian apologetics phase; a Communism kick (just learning about it, NOT embracing it!); a bunch of books about the Bible Code; everything I could get my hands on pertaining to Virginia City, Nevada; and a P.I.G. phase – that is, I was reading a whole lotta books in Regnery Publishing company’s “Politically Incorrect Guide” series. The Thomas Wolfe phase did not last long because he only wrote three major books. (Wait! Wikipedia says “four”. I must have missed one. Uh-Oh!)

But nothing can “phase” me to the extent that movies do! I just seem to move from one theme-addiction to the next, and sometimes back again. They have been numerous, almost neverending. Twice, many years apart, I went on W.C. Fields and Laurel & Hardy kicks. I had my James Dean phase; my Gene Tierney phase; my Disney phase; William Holden, Judy Holliday, Charles Coburn, Robert Mitchum, Spencer Tracy, Frank Capra, and Alfred Hitchcock phases. I’m currently in the midst of my second Film Noir phase. But nuttin’ lasted longer than the Western Movie kick that The Countess (girlfriend & saddle pal) and I got on. That was a nearly 3-year phase.

But this blog bit is about my 2009 Sports Movies phase. How did it get started? Well, how do these things EVER get started? Some little inconsequential remark from someone gets me mentally moving in a certain direction. Or maybe it’s an article I come across somewhere. Or I watch one movie that I love so much (‘The Ghost And Mrs. Muir’) that it makes me want to watch EVERYTHING that beautiful woman (Gene Tierney) ever appeared in!

In ‘The Case Of The Sports Movies Phase’, that one got born this way: On September 29, 2008, The Airheadzona Republic newspaper’s ‘Heat Index’ (an ongoing opinion series on page 2 of their Sports section) published an article titled ‘He Shoots, He Scores’, in which they provided the lists of ‘Top Sports Movies’ according to Sports Illustrated magazine and ESPN.Com.

Well, I read it and saved it. For a year. No phase or nuttin’. But in the Fall of the following year – 2009 – I just happened to run across that article again when I was sorting through some files of stuffs and – “BOOM!” [to quote John Madden] – all the sudden the Sports Movies phase began and lasted for at least 6 months.

I already had an idea about which Sports-themed movies would make my own Top Ten list if I were to compile it right at that moment, but there were a few movies on the S.I. and ESPN lists that I had never seen, and I thought I really ought to watch them before compiling my own list.

So, that got me started. First I watched the few movies on those aforementioned lists that I’d never viewed before, and then I started watching a whole bunch of other sports movies that I’d never seen. Anything I’d heard was good (‘The Bad News Bears’) or anything that any friend recommended to me (‘Friday Night Lights’), I was willing to rent ‘n’ watch. The phase lasted about half a year and my updated list of Ten Favorites is posted below, following the S.I. & ESPN selections (with my comments in red) . . .

#1: Bull Durham
#2: Raging Bull
#3: Rocky
#4: Hoosiers
#5: Body And Soul
#6: The Hustler
#7: Chariots Of Fire
#8: Requiem For A Heavyweight
#9: Slap Shot
[The only reason to see ‘Slap Shot’ is to view Ralphie’s Mom (Melinda Dillon) from the movie ‘A Christmas Story’, topless and in the role of Paul Newman’s bisexual lover. Not a very good reason, in my opinion.]
#10: Jerry Maguire
[A movie so bad that I actually turned it off before it was over in an attempt to cut my losses short. That this movie was quite popular is a sad commentary on contemporary America.]

#1: Bull Durham
#2: Rocky
#3: Raging Bull
#4: Hoosiers
#5: Slap Shot
#6: The Natural
#7: Field Of Dreams
#8: Caddyshack
[Are you kidding me? With all the great sports movies that have been made, you’re selecting a sophomoric movie (with a fake mole) about something that’s more of a “game” than a sport?]
#9: The Hustler
[Sorry! It’s not a bad movie, but billiards is a “game”, NOT a sport! It shouldn’t have even been eligible to make the list.]
#10: The Longest Yard (1974)

And now, on to STMcC’s selections. I can tell you which of the following are my first and second favorites but trying to put them in some order of preference after that would be simply impossible, so I have merely alphabetized my list. Those movies that I had not seen prior to my 2009 Sports Movies Phase I have noted:

(1973 – Baseball)

This was Robert De Niro’s first major movie role. He plays a catcher who, unbeknownst to most of his teammates, is dying of cancer. I saw this movie in the very earliest days of cable television, when my Pa sold cable TV subscriptions.

It’s a real sad, tearjerking story - sort of the ‘Brian’s Song’ of baseball. Watching this movie now, as an adult, it is clear to me that few if any of the actors had any real athletic ability. However, despite the fact that at one time I was probably a better baseball player than any ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’ cast member, this is still a big favorite of mine.

I love the scenes where the players take money from their naïve fans via the card game TEGWAR (“The Exciting Game Without Any Rules”).

(1979 – Horse Racing)

If I were rating these movies by preference, ‘The Black Stallion’ would certainly get the #2 spot. It’s a gorgeous movie about a little boy shipwrecked on an island and who is befriended and saved by a wild stallion. Eventually both boy and horse are rescued (uh, “No, thanks”, I would have said) and returned to civilization.

The little boy eventually becomes fond of an old, retired jockey - Mickey Rooney – who serves as a mentor and surrogate father.

‘The Black Stallion’ includes some of the most delightful and creative photography in the history of cinema, and Mickey Rooney is downright amazing in his supporting role.

To the average viewer, it will appear as if Rooney isn’t doing any great acting at all. EXACTLY! He is so natural and he is so often “reacting” rather than “acting”, that you don’t notice a “performance” taking place. But at the same time, watch carefully and you will discover that he is wonderfully inventive (look for the itch he scratches while playing solitaire!)

I once spent a lot of time and money in professional acting classes trying to learn how to effectively “do nothing” like Mickey Rooney does in ‘The Black Stallion’. Sadly, I never did master the difficult ‘Art Of Nothing’.

(1979 – Bicycle Racing)

This is a movie that many of my friends and acquaintances referred to over the years but I somehow missed seeing until my 2009 Sports Movies Phase. Well, I may have been 30 years late, but I really loved it when I finally caught up to it.

It’s a low-budget movie about some small-town boys and one in particular whose coming-of-age includes bicycle racing, girl-crazy crushes, and a confused family life. This really is the sort of movie that “they don’t make anymore”, but if they did, I would perhaps start “going to the movies” again.

No special effects, no explosions or machine guns, no women unrealistically beating the crap out of men; just a straightforward, well-told, heartwarming and often humorous story about a simpler and far better time.

(1989 – Baseball)

“If you build it, they will come.”

Baseball presented as mythology, chimerical morality play, and a healing balm for the spirit. Despite the dippy hippie delusions, it's the best and most poetic movie about America's pastime.

It’s hard to believe there could be anybody who hasn’t already seen this movie. It’s also hard to believe that for many years I thought Kevin Costner’s other A-list baseball movie, ‘Bull Durham’, was better than ‘Field Of Dreams’. Uhp! I was an idiot!

Both of those excellent movies should be seen by all baseball fans and everyone else. And true, ‘Bull Durham’ contains some really classic scenes and lines of dialogue [“So, is somebody going to go to bed with somebody, or what?”], but for my baseball movie money . . . make mine “mysterious”.

(1974 – Football)

This is another one I first saw on television during cable TV’s infancy (Z-Channel on THETA Cable Television).

Incarcerated professional quarterback Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) is coerced into organizing a football team o’ criminals to battle the evil warden’s team o’ prison guards, BUT . . . he is not allowed to let his team win the game! Will the always self-centered quarterback save his own neck while disappointing the ragtag group of inmates who have come to trust him? Or will he really go for “the longest yard”?

Was this really worth watching about 20 times? “Yeah. For me it was.”

‘The Longest Yard’ is a hilarious movie that needed to be remade in 2005 with Adam Sandler like I need a pink bonnet and a bouquet of pansies!

(2004 – Ice Hockey)

How many of you were old enough and aware enough to remember the U.S. Olympic hockey team upsetting “the seemingly invincible Russian squad” in 1980? It was probably that, more than anything else, that started the Soviet Union toward its eventual break-up.

Like every other American at the time, I was rejoicing over that incredible and totally unexpected outcome. Our hearts were regularly skipping beats!

More incredible than the U.S. victory, however, is that it took Hollywood nearly a quarter of a century to put this story on film!

In the ensuing years, I have come to absolutely despise the Olympic Games and I never ever watch ANY of them. Therefore, it wasn’t until my 2009 Sports Movies Phase kicked in that I got around to seeing ‘Miracle’.

Considering how I now feel about the Olympics, and considering that I don’t even understand all the rules to hockey, much less watch any of it or root for any team, the fact that I enjoyed this movie so much was almost as incredible as the U.S. hockey team’s gold medal accomplishment in 1980.

(1971 – Motocross Racing)

This is the biggest surprise on my list. The surprise isn’t that ‘On Any Sunday’ is on my list, but that it’s on my list when the surfing movie ‘Endless Summer’ isn’t.

Bruce Brown has made a number of lighthearted documentaries, his most famous being ‘Endless Summer’ (1966), which I love only slightly more than its long-awaited sequel ‘Endless Summer II’ (1994). Mr. Brown also made ‘On Any Sunday’.

Although I never did any board surfing (unless you’re including Boogie Boards, which I’m not), I grew up body-surfing on Santa Monica Beach and, in my youth, I went through a couple pairs of good quality fins. I never rode motorcycles or was the least bit interested in Motocross – although my brother Napoleon was into motorcycles and Motocross at one time. But then Nappy also likes Tony Orlando And Dawn, so what does HE know?

I’m not the least bit mechanical-minded; a motorcycle engine looks like Greek to me. My curiosity about how things work does not extend beyond taking apart a Keurig coffee kup to see its internal design (which I did just a couple days ago). So, it’s a real head-scratcher to find ‘On Any Sunday’ on this list when ‘Endless Summer’ isn’t.

I can’t watch ‘On Any Sunday’ without being reminded of John Milner in the two ‘American Graffiti’ movies.

I remember in the days before BETA and VHS tapes, they’d occasionally show Bruce Brown’s movies at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and I went there more than once. All I can say is that although both of his early documentaries take me back in time to the innocence of my wonderfilled childhood days and engender in me a bittersweet mood or saudade, somehow ‘On Any Sunday’ does it a shade more intensely for me than does ‘Endless Summer’ - despite my love of wave-riding and general disinterest in motorsports.

There’s something about that scene at the end of ‘On Any Sunday’ showing Steve McQueen and his buddies riding motorcycles on a beach at sunset, while that theme song plays, that just wrings my heart of sadness over my Paradise Childhood Lost. It makes me feel like I do when listening to the softer sounds of Bossa Nova:

On Any Sunday Bruce Brown Steve McQueen


(1962 – Boxing)

I watched this in 2009 only because it came in at #8 on Sports Illustrated’s ‘Top Ten’ list. Here you have a boxing movie with no boxing in it. Which means, of course, that it’s really more of a character study than it is a boxing movie.

Anthony Quinn (whom I normally do not care for) plays a washed-up fighter who is being ill-treated by his conniving manager (Jackie Gleason). Mickey Rooney, giving his standard excellent performance, plays Quinn’s trainer who goes to bat for the down ‘n’ out pug. And sweet Julie Harris (who played opposite James Dean in the classic ‘East Of Eden’) is the social worker who tries to help Quinn as he becomes increasingly sweet on her.

It is well known that a large part of the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s ‘Rocky Balboa’ character was supplied by Chuck Wepner and his surprising tenacity in a fight with Muhammad Ali – a boxing match that all the so-called “experts” said would be over at just about the ringing of the bell for round one.

Well, after watching ‘Requiem For A Heavyweight’, I realized (despite never having heard or read this) that Sylvester Stallone must have also been aware of this movie before sitting down to write the first ‘Rocky’ movie. Anthony Quinn is clearly the pre-Rocky Rocky.

The only criticism I have to make about ‘Requiem…’ is that it includes one of the worst punches (if not the VERY WORST punch) I have ever seen thrown in a movie or television show – and believe me, I have seen some really bad movie/TV punches thrown!

The offending punch is thrown by Michael "Let's Be Careful Out There" Conrad of TV show ‘Hill Street Blues’ fame.

[By the way - for the record - I always HATED ‘Hill Street Blues’, regardless of the fact that all these years later I’m still receiving an occasional pittance of a residual check for a little “bit” I did as an Irish gang member in one early-1980s episode. I gladly accepted their money, but I HATED their show!]

Anyway, ‘Requiem For A Heavyweight’ is a nicely told, nicely acted, heartbreaking story. I’ve already watched it a second time!

(1976 – Boxing)

If this list were in order of preference, ‘Rocky’ would be #1. It’s a crying shame that Sylvester Stallone went on to make 364 sequels – one ‘Rocky’ movie for every day of the year – which really tarnished the memory of the original classic. But let’s not allow Stallone’s stupidity to make us forget just how great the first installment was!

I had the good fortune to visit Philadelphia in 2005 with my dear friend Pooh. I’ll never forget the year because Hurricane Katrina hit while I was in Rocky Balboa’s “City Of Brotherly Love”.

Speaking of love – I loved being in Philadelphia, the true birthplace of our country, and having the opportunity to visit Independence Hall, to see the Liberty Bell, and to climb the steps of Rocky’s Museum of Art. (Actually, it is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but it might as well bear Rocky’s name now, because he truly put it on The American Map of popular tourist attractions.)

I would love to return to Philly again someday to spend several more days there; I felt I had only scratched the surface in 2005.

On a personal note: Although ‘Rocky’ takes place in Philadelphia, and most of the external shots were filmed there, the ice skating rink where Rocky takes Adrian on their first date was actually located in downtown Santa Monica (it’s now a Fred Segal store).

That ice skating rink was a regular hangout for my Sister and her friends around the same time ‘Rocky’ was filmed there, and that is also the first ice skating rink I ever stepped on. I also went there occasionally in the mid-1970s in an attempt to pick up girls. It didn’t work. I was such a lousy ice-skater that the only person I ever picked up there was me, from off the ice where I had fallen . . . again.

Rocky - First Date Scene


At the conclusion of ‘Rocky’, Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa are holding each other up in the middle of the ring, both of them utterly spent and barely alive. Then, Creed, the victor in a split decision, informs Rocky, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
Rocky replies, “Don’t want one.”

What a PERFECT ending! Alas, if only dunderhead Stallone had listened to his own characters and honored their wishes.

(1993 – Football)

You can’t be anything even remotely resembling a sports fan without having heard of this movie - comparisons to real-life athletes are made weekly! So, obviously, I’d been aware of ‘Rudy’ for years, but it wasn’t until my 2009 Sports Movie Phase that I finally got around to watching it.

It’s the story of too-small, minimally-talented Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who had a dream. The dream? To play on the Notre Dame football team.

I was sure I would enjoy the movie, after all, it’s an underdog tail tale based on a true story, and who among us doesn’t love an underdog tale?

But, heck, I’ve seen and heard lots of underdog sports stories and, really, the odds of ‘Rudy’ making my Top Ten list were about the same as the real-life “Rudy” making the Notre Dame football team. So I was greatly surprised to find myself “leaking from the eyes” on more than one occasion while watching the movie.

Of course, we all know that most of these “based on a true story” movies usually means that it’s 1% truth vs. 99% Hollywood fabrication (e.g., ‘The Blind Side’). Therefore I was greatly surprised to learn after doing a little research that ‘Rudy’ was predominately nonfiction - most importantly those final minutes!

Bottom line: If you don’t like the emotionally moving movie ‘Rudy’, all I can say is, "Heavens to Murgatroyd!” Why don’t you make like Snagglepuss and get out of my life? You can "exit, stage left!"

The True Rudy Story ( Part 2 )


Honorable Mention:

I would be remiss if I did not mention . . .

(1978 – Football)

This movie was solidly on my Top Ten list until right up to the very end when - in a stunning upset – the underdog, ‘Rudy’, displaced it. Nevertheless, I want it known that I love ‘Heaven Can Wait’!

Warren Beatty plays quarterback Joe Pendleton who dies in a roadway accident “before his time”. The Heavenly Powers That Be are persuaded to find another earthly body for Joe to inhabit and they settle on Leo Farnsworth, a greedy, corporate bastard. Enter Betty Logan (Julie Christie), a determined young environmental activist who hates everything Farnsworth stands for.

Farnsworth sets out to purchase the Los Angeles Rams so he can lead them to the Super Bowl, while he is simultaneously falling in love with Betty and attempting to convince her that he isn’t really the greedy, corporate bastard she thinks he is. ‘Heaven Can Wait’ is equal parts fantasy, sports movie, and love story.

Ladies, here’s what I suggest: With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, why don’t you get yourself a copy of ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and surprise your husband or boyfriend with it on February 14th. He will be pleasantly shocked that you got him a sports movie (after all the complaining you’ve done about how much time he spends watching sports on TV), and he will never suspect that you really got the movie so you could watch an A-list love story with him.

I know for a fact that you will BOTH enjoy ‘Heaven Can Wait’ because . . . “It is written!”

And, fellas, I have a Valentine’s Day suggestion for you as well: Get your wife a copy of ‘The Ghost And Mrs. Muir’ (1947) in honor of The Sport Of Love. That incredibly romantic story will have her eyes so full of tears that she’ll never be able to see that you really got the movie so you could vicariously live the sailor’s life of ultramacho-man Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison), and lust after actress Gene Tierney, the most beautiful woman God ever created!

Watch ‘The Ghost And Mrs. Muir’ with your wife and, trust me, dudeguys, you’re going to get some on Valentine’s Day night!

OK then, tell me now, y’all, what are YOUR favorite sports movies?

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Perhaps it’s only self-delusion but I like to think I’m a mentally well-rounded person who can converse with reasonable intelligence on a fairly wide variety of topics.

I’m not going to have anything useful to add when the conversation turns to cooking, knitting, Reality TV, car repairs, or anything “mechanical” for that matter. But I’d like to believe I can hold my own for a little while on topics such as art, literature, sports, film, and music.

The three areas in which I have acquired the most amount of knowledge are spirituality, including subcategories like “religion” and “The Holy Bible”; American West history, with special emphasis on mining camps 'n' characters; and politics, including everything from the Federal Reserve System, to the “New World Order”, to the life and times of Senator Joseph McCarthy. (I can more than adequately defend Senator McCarthy in any contentious debate with Liberals - as some Leftists through the years have come to find out and won’t soon forget.)

Therefore, some time ago when my friend Kevin, “The Kansas Kid”, sent me the small paperback book BIBLE IN POCKET, GUN IN HAND: The Story Of Frontier Religion’ by Ross Phares (first published in 1962), I was certain I would like it. How could I not? It simultaneously addressed two of my favorite subjects: religion and American West history.

However, considering that the book includes no photographs or illustrations, and the somber black and white cover shows (what appears to me to be) a Colt single-action pistol laid across a roughly-textured black leather Bible, I naturally assumed this book was going to be a very serious affair (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

So, was I ever surprised – and pleasantly so – when I found this book chock full of funny stories and anecdotes. Make no mistake about it, Ross Phares has due respect for his subject matter, but he addresses it with a light touch, and many of the anecdotes - which were pulled together from a large variety of sources - are highly entertaining and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny. Despite his respect and serious intentions, Phares is not averse to illustrating some of the contradictions and ridiculousness that accompanied the sowing of religious ideas in the newly opened Western frontier.

A number of these stories really deserve to be better known, and so I will share with you below some of my favorites – those that are short enough to be typed without too much strain on my fingers. Take it away, Ross Phares:

Many (preachers) by expert marksmanship saved themselves to preach another day. As basic precaution, they often traveled armed to the teeth and made it a practice to lay a pistol and the Bible side by side on the lectern.
. . .

Preachers were thwarted in their work by many of the backwoods people’s lack of a sufficient vocabulary to communicate with understanding on religion … A traveling preacher told of examining a woman at her home on her beliefs, and asking if she had any religious convictions.
“Naw,” she replied bluntly, “nor my ol’ man neither. He war tried for hog-stealin’ once, but he warn’t convicted.”
. . .

The establishment of schools did not quickly bring enlightenment. The story is told that a politician, after making a campaign speech near the Mexican border, was asked by a man in the audience: “What do you think of this teaching of the Mexican language to our kids?”
“I’m agin’ it,” he shouted. “If the English language was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”
. . .

The blessings they sought were simple and understandable. Someone has formulated their vision thus: “For the promise of the Word is that some day the children of the Word will find a land of milk and honey where each man may eat of his own vine, sit under his own fig tree and whittle on his own sticks.”
. . .

But unable to resist attention to the distinguished stranger, [the preacher] finally turned to him and said: “My friend, are you a Christian?”
The distiguished gentleman replied: “Sir, I am a theological professor.”
“My Lord,” said the preacher, “I wouldn’t let a little thing like that keep me from coming to Christ. … You can’t be saved with anything between you and God.”
. . .

A church member commented to a friend about a fine sermon he had just heard that lasted “nigh about two hours.”
“What was the preacher’s subject?” the friend asked.
“He nevah did say,” was the answer.
. . .

After listening to favorable arguments [for raising funds for the education of young ministers], this preacher rose to his feet and said emphatically he was agin’ it. “Not only that,” he said, “I thank God I have never seen a college.”
The bishop asked: “Brother, do you mean to thank God for your ignorance?”
“You may call it that if you wish.”
To which the bishop replied: “All I can say, Brother, is that you have a great deal to be thankful for.”
. . .

“You see, it’s this way. There’s an election goin’ on all the time. The Lord votes for you, the devil votes against you, and you cast the decidin’ vote.”
. . .

A Negro preacher was hearing the confession of a young man. In the middle of it he interrupted him: “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” he called. “You ain’t confessin’. You’s braggin’.”
. . .

One [minister] applying for lodging at a tavern was addressed by the landlord: “Stranger, I perceive that you are a clergyman. Please let me know whether you are a Presbyterian or a Methodist.”
“Why do you ask?” responded the preacher.
“Because I wish to please my guests, and I have observed that a Presbyterian minister is very particular about his own food and bed, and a Methodist about the feed and care of his horse.”
“Very well said,” replied the minister. “I am a Presbyterian, but my horse is a Methodist.”
. . .

This [gravestone epitaph] was for a gambler – suggesting the hazards of both clumsiness and avarice:

Played five aces,
Now playing a harp.
. . .

Another couple came to a minister’s home late one Saturday night without a license. The preacher told them he could not marry them without a license – for them to come back Monday. The insistent, disappointed young fellow asked him: “Couldn’t you just say a few words to tide us over the weekend?”
. . .

One minister on Temperance Sunday, to offer undisputable proof of the evil effects of liquor, made an elaborate demonstration with a worm.
He first dropped the worm into a glass of clear water where it wiggled about with apparent delight. Then he removed it and dropped it into a glass of whiskey, where it died instantly.
“Now what does this prove?” the preacher asked, beaming with satisfaction.
A red-eyed brother from the rear rose up and answered: “If you drink plenty of whiskey, you’ll never have worms.”
. . .

Early Baptist preachers were sometimes paid in barrels of whiskey.
. . .

This illustrative story is told of a Negro girl who, accused of improper relations with the opposite sex, was brought before a church assembly and thought by the examiner to be either quibbling or without clear understanding of the charges against her. Finally he asked her the direct question: “Are you a virgin?”

Without hesitation the girl replied: “Yessuh, I is.” Then she hesitated in thoughtful meditation for a moment and added emphatically: “But I ain’t no fanatic about it!”
. . .

One pastor labored six days for his flock, but early every Saturday morning he went fishing and spent the day at it. … Called to account for his idleness, he was asked: “How can you waste a whole day every week fishing when Satan’s so busy in this community? He certainly doesn’t take any time off!”
“I don’t suppose he does,” the pastor agreed. “But I’m not following his example.” And he kept right on fishing and preaching in the same community.
. . .

A Negro pastor was found embracing one of the sisters of the congregation. When summoned before the church to answer for his actions, he defended himself with Scripture: “Doan it say in de Book dat de shepherd taketh de lamb unto his busom?”
. . .
The Methodists, who boasted of some margin of learning over the Baptists (though hardly enough, it would seem, to boast about), took digs at their ignorance. They gave one definition of a Methodist as “a Baptist who has learned to read and write.”
. . .

An old Negro, a member of the Baptist Church, was given a litter of puppies by a Methodist neighbor. Before he left with them the Methodist minister appeared, and to make conversation with the new owner of the puppies, he asked: “What denomination are they?”
In respect to the Methodist donor, who was present, he answered: “Dey’s Methodist dogs.”

A week later the preacher chanced by the Negro’s place, and seeing the puppies running about in the yard asked him again what denomination they belonged to.
“Dey’s Baptist dogs.”
“But you told me last week they were Methodist pups.”
“But dey didn’t have dar eyes open den.”
. . .

Because the people truly believed that God was real, and that His spirit abided in this part of the raw earth they were fashioning according to their beliefs, they approached Him as a deity of the backwoods who required little formality or polished manners on the part of His simple children. …

[One old man] said he did not think an intermediary was necessary to get in touch with the Lord; that “when a feller’s in a jam, the Lord can hear him if he’ll holler.”
. . .

One man at a weekly meeting rose and prayed with calculated restraint: “Oh Lord, we need rain bad, send us rain. We don’t want a rippin’, rarin’ tearin’, rain that’ll harrer up the face of Nature, but a drizzlin’, drozzlin’, sozzlin’ rain, one that’ll last all night and putty much all day, Oh Lord.” …

Downpours following prayer for rain sometimes brought the supplicants to their knees again to let the Lord know they had had enough. One drought sufferer, suddenly turned flood victim, pleaded: “Lord, Lord, stay thy hand! Enough! Art thou goin’ to drown us out like woodchucks?”
. . .

A band of immigrants held up their westward journey just outside Dodge City for prayer for protection, during which the minister-leader pleaded: “…On our long journey Thy Divine Providence has thus far kept us safe. We have survived cloudbursts, hailstorms, floods, and strong gales, thirst and parching heat – as well as raids of horsethieves and attacks by hostile Indians.

“But now, Oh, Lord, we face our greatest danger. Dodge City lies just ahead, and we must pass through it. Help us and save us, we beseech Thee. Amen.”
. . .

Liquor, directly and indirectly, inspired a great deal of praying. An old deacon who had a decided weakness for the bottle got on a terrible bender one night, and thought he was dying. He called his wife, who was a devout woman, and asked her to pray for him. She fell to her knees and prayed: “Oh Lord, have mercy on my poor drunken husband.”
The deacon heard her from the next room, and called to her: “No, no, Margaret! Don’t tell Him I’m drunk; tell Him I’m sick!”
. . .

The frontier folk possessed such a capacity to laugh at themselves they told funny stories about prayer. Where truth ends and fiction begins is sometimes difficult to say. …

All-out faith in immediate answer to prayer is illustrated in this story of an old maid who, feeling that her opportunites for matrimony were fast coming to an end, went out into the woods, greatly distressed, to meditate upon the matter. She finally concluded that since there was no earthly hope in sight she would call upon the Lord for help.

She knelt down and prayed fervently: “Oh Lord, hear my prayers. This day send me a man. Send me a man, Oh Lord, that I may not be lonesome.”
At that moment an owl in a nearby tree sounded out: “Who! Who! Who!”
The old maid jumped to her feet and shouted with joy:
“Anybody, Lord. Just anybody!”
. . .

Evangelist L. M. White said:
“Just at that time, with everybody excited, a regular pandemonium reigning, I threw my Remington on the crowd and howled, ‘Sit down! We came here to worship God, and we are going to do it if I have to kill somebody’.”

- - - - - - - -

Hokey-Smoke! That is so similar to that classic line in the Paul Newman movie ‘The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean’ . . .

Tell them it's going to be a new place. It's going to be a nice place to live. I'm the new judge. There's going to be law, there's going to be order, progress, civilization, and peace. Above all, peace. And I don't care who I have to kill to get it.
~ Paul Newman (as Judge Roy Bean)

If you’ve never seen that movie, people, you have missed a great one!

Well, I hope you have enjoyed exploring religion in the Wild West with me. Tune in again next week when we will explore Marilyn Monroe in the buff.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean 1972 John Huston


YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Laurel: “Shakespeare.”
Hardy: “Longfellow.”
Laurel: “What goes up the chimney?”
Hardy: “Smoke. What comes down?”
Laurel: “Santy Claus. ...Have you seen this one?...”

You’re confused already, aren’t ya? I could tell by that blank look on your face.

That bit o' dialogue comes from a 1936 Laurel & Hardy movie called ‘Our Relations’. The drinking gang I used to hang with – The League Of Soul Crusaders – we loved all the old Laurel & Hardy movies (although W.C. Fields was really the house hero!)

Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields, Deputy Dog Dawg cartoons, Mickey’s Big Mouth malt liquor, and the “Come On, Eileen” music video – those are the things that kept us alive throughout 1982.

Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners (HQ Audio)


In ‘Our Relations’, Laurel & Hardy would go through that “Shakespeare/Longfellow” dialogue exchange every time they would find themselves saying the same thing at the same time. The “Have you seen this one?” bit at the end is actually the pay-off joke that comes later in the movie. But I’m not going to explain it to ya because none of that has anything at all to do with this blog bit!

A couple years ago, my friend The Flying Aardvark sent me this picture of a rotating woman. It came from TheTelegraph.com.au website. [See below]

According to that site, this rotating woman is a . . .


Here’s what they say about it:

Do you see the dancer turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain.

uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

If counter-clockwise, then you use more of the left side of the brain.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
forms strategies

Most of us would see the dancer turning counter-clockwise, though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

I can’t even remember anymore which direction I first saw the woman rotating in. But I do recall that in a minute or so, I saw that she had reversed herself and was suddenly spinning in the opposite direction.

Within a few minutes I found that I could mentally manipulate her and make her turn in either direction I chose. Then it became a game for me to see how quickly I could reverse her direction.

I got to the point where I could (and still can) make her reverse her direction before she’s able to make a full revolution. I like to make her swing her forward leg back and forth, back and forth. But the question is, of course, which leg is forward, the right one or the left one? It depends upon which direction the mind sees her turning, doesn’t it?

What’s really fun is to read all the comments people have left on the TheTelegraph.com.au website about this. Some people swear the woman rotates in only one direction; others swear she reverses her direction every couple of minutes; and some are certain the whole thing is rigged in some way.

It’s not rigged; she’s not changing her direction from time to time. She really can be seen to revolve both clockwise and counter-clockwise. Or even, as I said, not revolving at all, but merely swinging her forward leg back and forth.

I’m not sure that I’m buying any of the Right Brain/Left Brain explanation for how a person views the image moving. All I can state for certain is that this woman has a pretty nice body . . .

With you in no dress
Oh, my thoughts, I confess
Verge on dirty
Ah, come on, Eileen!

So, how do you see her moving? Clockwise? Counter-clockwise? Both at different times? Jus’ swingin’ her front leg back and forth?

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NOTICE: TO ALL MY BLOG FRIENDS (But Especially Sig, Marjorie, & Missed Periods)

Doggs & Doggettes . . .

If you wish to contine leaving comments on my blogs, and would like me to continue leaving comments on yours, you need to read the following:

It seems such a simple and obvious rule that you’d assume no one would really even NEED to learn it, and yet some folks still can’t seem to mentally grasp it . . . particularly I.T. computer geek-like website builders. Personally, I think all but two of them should be publicly executed, just to make an example of people who simply can’t leave well enough alone.

The rule? The impossible rule to learn?


And yet these computer geeks can somehow never restrain themselves from tinkering with it, and tinkering with it, and tinkering with it until they have fixed fudged-up a perfectly fine thing.

If you once spent a lot of time at Amazon.com BigBitch.com like I did, then you saw it happen over and over again. Their website geeks kept tweaking things until they’d completely wrecked it. (It’s so bad there now that one can’t even access the Profile Pages of their Friends & Favorites.)

Well, Blogspot.com ain’t much different. I think the problem is that they keep a bunch of geeks on the payroll rather than just bringing them in and paying them on a job-by-job, project-by-project basis. And so in order to feel like the wages are being justified, the Blogspot.com geeks keep messing with a perfectly good thing, and each time they do, something BREAKS somewhere else.

The leg bone's connected to the knee bone
The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone
The thigh bone's connected to the hip bone, etc. 

Did you see what these nitwits did recently? Someone (with no aesthetic sense whatsoever) felt our Blogspot Profile Pages needed “fixing” and so they went to work redesigning them. Have you seen one lately? They look like absolute sh!t compared to how they looked just a couple months back. I can’t even stand to look at mine anymore because it just makes me cringe! It's just Amazon.com all over again!

I guess Blogger just doesn't have faith that WE will contact THEM when we feel something needs "fixing" or "improving".

I seriously doubt anyone sent an Email to Blogger saying, "Could you take my perfectly acceptable Profile Page and reorganize it in as ugly and eye-challenging a fashion that you are capable of imagining? Thank you!"

Anybody who thinks our Blogger Profile Pages look better “now” than they did “then”, well, Blogger probably has a job for YOU!

Just some days ago, the Blogspot.com geniuses did it again! Someone tweaked, adjusted, redesigned, or “fixed” something somewhere and the “blowback” (to use a political term) or “unintended consequences” from that “fix” was that suddenly many of us found we could no longer comment on each other’s blogs.

Now, thanks to Kittie Howard’s Blog, I learned this morning how to get around that problem. Or to put it another way: I learned how to fix what Blogger broke when they “fixed” something else or made something “better” for us. (Thanks, Blogspot Geeks! You guys do the bestest stuffs!)

Anyway, it seems it is the bloggers who are using the “Full Page” Comments format who are adversely affected by the “fixing”. If you or someone you are attempting to leave a comment for is using the “Full Page” format, you and they may need to change to the “Pop-Up Window” instead.

It’s too bad, because I really prefer the “Full Page” Comment layout to the “Pop-Up Windows” but Blogspot.com has taken that choice away from us.

When Farawayeyes and I both changed to the “Pop-Up Window” this morning, we found we were able to post comments on each other’s blogs again. (Thanks, Kittie!)

Sig, Marjorie, and Missed Periods are the owners/operators of three of the blogs I “Follow” and that I have been unable to leave comments for recently. (So, Sig, Marjorie, and Missed Periods, if you ever want to hear from me again, you’ll probably need to switch your Comment formats also. NOT switching, however, will be a very effective way of avoiding me from now on. Something to consider before changing.)

If anyone is unsure how to change from “Full Page” to “Pop-Up Window”, here are my easy, handy-dandy instructions:

Go to your DASHBOARD
Then click COMMENTS (found just to the right of “Formatting”)
Click the green dot into the “Pop-Up Window” option.
Scroll down to the very bottom and click SAVE SETTINGS.

You’re done. You’ll hear from me again. Unlucky you!

But don’t think this is the end of our Blogspot Bugs, people! The next “fixed” or “improved” thing is only weeks away. You’ll know when our host has completed the project because SOMETHING ELSE will go WRONG with your blogging experience.

Next problem! Next problem!
I love ya, next problem!
You're always
A “fix”

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


[This “Blog Bit” is dedicated to (Tom Waits fan) EVE of the blog ‘LITTLE THINGS…']

Lyrically speaking, the greatest song ever written is “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” by Bob Dylan.

Ya wanna argue it with me? Fine. No problem. I wholeheartedly welcome your challenge.

But before you even try to contend with the words, you’ll need to contend with the rhyming scheme. Click HERE, then take a pencil ‘n’ paper and write out the rhyming pattern that Dylan used.

F-in’ amazing, ain’t it?
Well, Shakespeare himself, with his pointed shoes and his bells, wouldn’t have tried topping it!

OK, now that you’re ready to match the rhyming scheme, you can go on ahead and try matching the lyrical content.

What? Admitting defeat so soon?

Well, that’s to your credit.

Lyrically speaking, the greatest song ever written - “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” - belongs to Bob Dylan, but as gifted a songwriter as Dylan was, he wasn’t the best that planet-E has ever produced.

From 1973 through 1982, Tom Waits proved himself to be the greatest lyricist this world has ever known.

But then Tom met this woman named Kathleen and she convinced him to throw his God-given talent away. As Edgar Cayce said: "When the devil can't get a man any other way, he sends a woman for him.”

Oops. Was that politically incorrect? If so, I most sincerely apologize to . . . EVERYONE! (Lord knows I never mean to swim against the mainstream!)

Anyway... tonight, Brother Napoleon and I watched the 1982 Francis Ford Coppola movie “One From The Heart”. I saw it with my acting buddy, Marty Brumer, in a Los Angeles theatre the year it came out.

Pay close attention and you’ll notice that the story begins with a stray dog running from right to left, and concludes with that same stray dog running from left to right. But in between that stray dog’s roaming from side-to-side, there is a tremendous amount of color and beauty.

Story-wise, “One From The Heart” is “wafer thin”.

But cinematically and musically, it is gorgeous beyond description! And there is an abundance of humor in this movie, but it is humor of the subtle variety; some viewers might not even catch all of it.

We’re talking about character-driven humor, not over-the-top joke-telling or physical humor. (If Hank’s pick-up lines used on Leila don’t make you laugh-out-loud, you, my friend, are deficient in the Sense O’ Humor department.)

And character-actor Harry Dean Stanton as Moe (“Moe me, Moe you, Moe life, Moe love!”) almost steals the movie - watch and listen to him closely! Moe cracks me up!

The thin story killed the movie at the box office and drove Coppola to bankruptcy, but regardless, I consider “One From The Heart” to be nothing less than ‘visual poetry’ and one of my Top 25 all-time favorite movies.

The only movies I can think of from that era that are in the same league with “One From The Heart” from a cinematography standpoint are “Koyaanisqatsi” and “The Black Stallion”.

“One From The Heart” is unquestionably a visual masterpiece! I mean, we’re talking diabetic eyeballism here, and equaled only by its musical score, composed by Tom Waits.

This might be the only movie based entirely on a song. Francis Ford Coppala’s son, Gian-Carlo, played his dad the Tom Waits/Bette Midler duet “I Never Talk To Strangers” from Tom’s ‘Foreign Affairs’ album, and Coppola was knocked out by it.

I Never Talk to Strangers-Tom Waits


Later, Coppola got to thinking that a love story shown from two different viewpoints – his and hers (as in the “I Never Talk To Strangers” song) – might make a pretty interesting movie.

Well, the movie was pretty alright – that much is certain.

Coppola later said the movie symbolized Greek mythology pertaining to Zeus and Hera. Whatever! The bottom line is: “One From The Heart” lost millions of dollars – every shot having been filmed indoors, on sound stages, which made it a financial albatross – and Coppola spent about a decade trying to regain his lost money and his lost reputation.

The truth, however, is that “One From The Heart” is a visual and aural feast of Thanksgiving Day-proportions! And it includes a number of dialogue gems that I have regularly used in my every-day smart-aleckness ever since.

Speaking solely for myself (and every other person of good taste), I'm prepared to claim that the soundtrack song “Broken Bicycles” features the best lyrics Tom Waits ever penned (unless it was “San Diego Serenade” instead). "Broken Bicycles" was also probably my good friend Martin Brumer’s all-time favorite song. (Marty was constantly singing it to no one in particular; singing it just because it deserved to be heard by others!)

In 1990 or '91, I had the tremendous good fortune to see world-class musician Jack Sheldon - who provided all of the mournful trumpet-playing on the "One From The Heart" soundtrack, as well as on other Tom Waits recordings - performing on the 4 Queens Hotel/Casino stage in downtown Las Vegas. (Yeah, overall, God has been good to me.)

Anyway, to conclude this blog bit o’ nuttin’, I just wanna tell ya . . .

If you love visual poetry and top o’ da line song lyrics, you must NOT miss “One From The Heart” – it’s Hollywood’s all-time greatest bomb! (Uh... that is... I mean, excluding “Dr. Strangelove”, of course!)

one from the heart_intro


One From The Heart 1982 Trailer


one from the heart


Broken Bicycles - Tom Waits


~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012



[Stephen and Kelly in Kelly’s truck, circa Hangover 1,982.]

[Stephen’s old publicity shot, circa 1982. Picture by Kelly – fine photographer, artful animator, manic mechanic.]

Brother Napoleon and I drove up to Prescott (Airheadzona) from Phoenix (Airheadzona) on ‘Margarita Day, 2012’ just to take a look around the old neighborhood, have lunch and a margarita.

I can’t remember anything that happened after that fifth margarita.

Jus’ kiddin’. We were good boys. (Hell, we’ll try anything once!)

We had lunch at the Gurley Street Bar And Grill, then a beer at the Prescott Brewing Company, we walked around the courthouse square, and I had ONE margarita at Lyzzard’s Lounge. Then we got outta town. (It weren’t nuttin’ like “The Terrible Night I” or “The Terrible Night II”.)

Awhile back ago, with the help of my friend Mister Sheboyganboy Six, I was able the determine that the Chevy pickup truck owned by my ol’ buddy Kelly Anderson was built in 1953 to 1955 or ’57.

Well, back in Prescott on Jan. 1st (“Margarita Day”) I paid a visit to the woman who runs The Old Sage Bookshop, whom I remembered had a Chevy pickup that looked to me as if it were very much like the one Kelly owned. She told me that hers is a ’53, and it just so happens that she’s got it up for sale. (Wish I could afford to buy it. Bet it ain’t as fast as Kelly’s though – being a manic mechanic, he had that thing all souped-up.)

So, I walked down Whiskey Row to where she had it parked and took another look and I made up my mind that Kelly’s Chevy must have been the same year, because I didn’t see a single detail that struck me as being different or out-of-place. Even the “3100” seemed familiar to me.

[Brother Nappy stands next to the '53.]

I’m still gonna play the Tom Waits song “Ol’ ‘55” every year on Kelly’s birth and death dates though - it’s close enough! And the memories! Oh, the memories:

Well, my time went so quickly
I went lickity-splitly
Out to my ol’ '55
As I drove away slowly
Feeling so holy
God knows I was feeling alive

Now the sun's coming up
I'm riding with Lady Luck
Freeway, cars and trucks
Stars beginning to fade
And I lead the parade

Naturally - to Brother Nappy’s disgust - I insisted on taking yet another picture of the cowboy ‘n’ horse statue behind the Prescott Courthouse. (Incidentally, the only lawsuit I was ever involved in was resolved in THAT courthouse. I doesn’t has to tell ya who won,
does I?) This time I think I finally got a picture I’m satisfied with:

I have no idea why the edges of these pictures make it look like there was Vaseline on the cell phone camera’s lens (probably leftover mayonnaise from lunch) but I dig how it makes the pictures look kinda dreamy.

Why do I like this statue so much? Well, mostly I just like the way the brim on the left side of the cowboy’s hat bends upward slightly more than the opposite edge does. (Look, I’ve told you people I’m odd, strange, weird. Didja think I was just saying it to make myself seem “different”? No! I really AM “different”... odd, strange, weird. "Not that there's anything right with that.")

Directly across the street from the fountain where BILLY JACK kicked all that booty in 1971 . . .

. . . there’s a new age book store called Lifeways. Well, back when I lived in Prescott (Oct. 1992 - Feb, ’94) that book store was a record store. As Nappy and I were walking past it, I got to thinking about where I was at “musically” during my time in Prescott.

By then, Jazz and Blues had replaced Rock as my favorite musical genre. In fact, that transformation had begun about 1983 and was complete by ’85. It’s no exaggeration to say that performers like the Eurythmics, Madonna, Culture Club, Duran Duran, and A Flock Of Seagulls chased me into the waiting arms of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and Blind Lemon Pye. And from there I eventually found my way to Jazz. Ahhh, Jazz!

So, during my time in Prescott, while I was weaving my way from The Bird Cage Saloon to Matt’s Saloon to Sneakers Bar to The Cattleman’s Bar And Grill and back to The Bird Cage Saloon again, it was Blues songs I had running through my mind.

Yeah, during my stay in Prescott, I had the Blues. I had ‘em bad and that weren’t good! Heck, it was the middle of January ’93 while staring out of my Victorian house apartment window that I composed the darkest poem I would ever write: ‘Ailing Spiders’. I’d post it here but it would only bum us all out.

And when I say I had the Blues, I don’t mean that I had the Sad Blues; what I had was the Angry Blues.

And that’s probably why I was SO READY to hear what I heard that July night in 1993 when I walked into that little record shop and started browsing. I really couldn’t afford to buy anything, but I had a few minutes to spare between drinks.

And then I heard those stinging, rip-roaring electric guitar notes bouncing off the walls of that little store. I stopped browsing, walked up to the counter and asked the clerk, “Who the heck is this you’re playing?!”

He says, “Gary Moore. His new album ‘Blues Alive’.”
Me: “You mean Gary Moore - the Irish dude - who was in Thin Lizzy?”
“Yep. Some time ago he met Albert King who really got him into the Blues, and now he plays this stuff. In my opinion, with this album, Gary has graduated into the Guitarist Big Leagues.”

I was just floored by what Gary Moore was doing. Here was an Irish bloke who had taken his brand of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, added Albert King’s brand of Urban Blues, and come up with an amalgamation I would call Hard Metal Blues"  .

I was all prepared to part with some of my limited funds to buy a copy of that CD but the store didn’t have any more Moore in stock, so the clerk sold me the store’s own used copy at a big discount. He took it right off the store’s CD player and handed it to me.

I took the CD and some beer back to my Victorian house apartment and cranked that album up to eleven for the next seventy-six minutes eight months!

You know how we associate certain songs, albums or musicians with certain events or epochs of our lives? Well, I will never be able to think of that Victorian house converted into an apartment building on Prescott’s main thoroughfare, Gurley Street, without thinking of my poem ‘Ailing Spiders’ and Gary Moore’s album ‘Blues Alive’.

I’ll bet the landlord was ecstatic the day I informed him that I was moving back to Los Angeles. No more nights of ‘Blues Alive’ cranked to eleven at eleven.

Sometime during that same year, my friend Dean came to visit. Some psychic or geologist or psychologist had announced that California was going to experience “The Big One” on a certain weekend, and Dean figured it was as good a time as any to pay a visit to his old friend Stephen up in Prescott, Airheadzona.

When he got there, we decided to spend the weekend camping in Sedona. Of course I packed Gary Moore into the bag with my toothbrush and my Excedrin.

So, that first night, with our campsite set up and an ice chest packed with cold ones, Dean and I broke out the invisible instrument cases, carefully removed the AirGuitars from them, tuned them up, and then stood side-by-side playing all of Gary Moore’s ‘Blues Alive’ licks . . . cranked to eleven, of course.

All through the Sedona valley you could hear our AirGuitars screaming and echoing off the rock walls! All the dogs in Sedona were barking, the women and children were running, and the tree-huggers were scampering up their trees! And the bears . . . well, the bears were sleeping. Even Gary Moore cranked to eleven can’t wake hibernatin’ bears. (Luckily for the AirGuitarist dudes.)

Not one person approached and asked us to turn the AirGuitars down to ten. But then Dean and I were both wearing red bandanas around our necks, and everyone knows you don’t wanna rile cowboys when they got the Blues. Just let ‘em play; they’ll pass out soon enough.

[A drive-through liquor store in Prescott.
Does M.A.D.D. know about this?]

Some songs found on Gary Moore’s ‘Blues Alive’ album . . .

Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues (Live)


Believe it or not, I think the version of “Further On Up The Road” found on the ‘Blues Alive’ album is even better than this one:

Gary Moore - Live Blues (1993) #12 "Further On Up The Road"


Gary Moore - King of the Blues (Live at HammerSmith Odeon 1990)

Albert King:
"He's the hunter with a crosscut saw
Born under a b-A-d sign!"

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t Amazon.com, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.