Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I always figured when I got older, God would sorta come inta my life somehow. And he didn't. I don't blame him. If I was him I would have the same opinion of me that he does.

- Ed Tom Bell, No Country for Old men

It may just be coincidence that I picked up Gettysburg and watched it again, or grabbed the soundtrack and played it in my car on the way to work today, but Ghost Hunters is exploring the Cashtown Inn tonight. It's a place that I have passed in my travels, and is nearly legendary in the lore of we that have studied the Civil War extensively.

The brief history is that the Cashtown Inn is just that... an Inn at a hole in the wall town in the Pennsylvania hills named Cashtown. What makes it special? It was the headquarters for Major General A.P. Hill's III Corp in the few days before Gettysburg. On the night of June 30, General Henry Heth, one of Hill's brigade commanders, asked Hill if he had any objections to Heth going into the town of Gettysburg the next day. Many of his soldiers had made the long march from Virginia barefoot, and he'd heard there was a shoe factory in the town.

Hill uttered the words that would send over 50,000 men to the boatman- "None in the world."

General Hill

The next day, Heth brought his boys down the Chambersburg Pike, heading towards town... and came under fire from General John Buford's Union Cavalry. Heth's men broke off the Pike, formed battle lines, and attacked... and when they did, every soldier on both sides began making a beeline towards the small crossroad town of Gettysburg- in a day, there'd be over 170,000 men facing murderous hails of bullets on these gentle rolling hills.

On Ghost Hunters, the fella that owns the Inn said something about how when people go into the basement, sometimes the water heater and piping is gone. The whole thing. Gone.

In it's place is a scene 150 years old, where two soldiers are helping one man who seems mortally wounded... and the indicators of the present are erased, like God swiped it away with His mighty hand.

They say it's a residual haunting, like a memory caught in time, bound to replay itself again and again.

Hell, search it online. This is the first picture I found- there's a face in the window at the top.

Here's a close up of the face:

Now, I know more ghost stories about Gettysburg than I could tell you. I know more about the battle of Gettysburg than any scholar you've seen on TV. I know the position and troop strength of every brigade throughout the battle. In seventh grade my teacher let me teach the class for two days about Gettysburg, then concluded it by saying, "You know more than I do."

They say some folks are just drawn to the town, like magic, like they know they should live there.

I think I'm drawn there because these stories... they're all I got. They're as American as can be. For instance, the story of Winfield Scott Hancock and Lew Armistead, two men who were close as brothers before the war, only so they could split up, with Hancock going North and Armistead going South. In a Biblical twist of irony, Armistead led Pickett's Charge against Hancock's men at Gettysburg. Armistead was mortally wounded in the charge. Heaving, on his deathbed, he asked to see General Hancock, only to have someone tell him that Hancock had also been hit. Armistead went nearly hysterical, dying soon after. Hancock survived.

It is said that on the last night before they left California, where they were stationed before the war, Armistead grabbed Hancock on that last night, and with tears in his eyes, said, "Win, if I ever raise my hand against you... may God strike me dead!" I never caught the significance of this story until my own best friend was dead. I could picture me saying something like that to Ryer, because I am overly dramatic like that... and then one of us not making it out.

It is the story of the dead Carolinian, where on his body, they found a note saying, "Tell my father I died facing the enemy."

It is the story of the boy Liutenant who cut the last tendons of his leg off with his pocketknife after an artillery ball shattered it.

These stories, and the stories of their hauntings... they're all I got. I always keep thinking that one day, when I'm old and ready to die, that God will have entered my life, and I'll have made peace, and I'll get to heaven.

But He doesn't seem to be getting any closer. And what if I don't make it long enough? Then I die a half-Catholic, and go... to Hell? If I die in a car accident tomorrow, which is as likely as it isn't, I'm FUCKED.

So I'm left with Ghost Hunters. I'm left with the recording they got of a picture frame sliding across the table, as if A.P. Hill himself saw something important in that old brass frame. I'm left hoping that I'm not one of those miserable, trapped souls that has to reenact the bad scenes in my life over and over. The energy doesn't leave this world. The love you have, the anger, the strength, the loneliness.... that stuff doesn't dissipate. It changes forms... but it doesn't leave. Some things are forever.

Let me be honest with you people- I am absolutely terrified.

Don't ever wonder why I drink so damn much. Although I doubt any of you do.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Fights

I was going to just throw this back in last year's revisions, but it's fucking good, so you're all going to read it.

“Tell Me" is pounding through the speakers in the heaving, sweating bar, and the floor rumbles accordingly. The announcers on TV howl over the din as Mayweather puts on his sombrero and saunters to the ring, 50 Cent rapping next to him: “When I’m out in NY boys blunts and phillies, when I’m out in LA boys wraps and swishes.” The noise in the bar increases ten fold; being overwhelmingly close to Paterson, it’s mostly blacks and Hispanics at this joint.

This crowd is evenly split between Mayweather and De La Hoya, and it's predominantly along racial lines; blacks with dreadlocks and oversized white t-shirts rooting for Floyd, and Hispanics with their chinstrap beards and curvy girlfriends pulling for Oscar. I'm with the Spanish guys, hoping Oscar will pull off the upset.

From the opening bell, though, the fight goes as I thought it would. Mayweather bobs and weaves, going from his flat footed, taunting, open stance to sudden jabs and straight rights, immediately angling out, moving with a grace rarely seen in a boxing ring. De La Hoya tries to cut off the ring and corner him, sometimes successfully. He flurries body shots that appear to land but really don’t, all blocked by Floyd’s elbows. De la Hoya doesn't have enough power to put him down, and although he’s certainly the busier fighter, he’s not hurting Floyd at all. Looks just like every fight I’ve watched Mayweather fight.

Like a switch, Floyd turns it on around the fifth. Oscar’s not catching him on the ropes as much, and the fighters are circling far more in the center of the ring. This is Floyd’s game, and Oscar should know that. Floyd catches him with a straight right with fifteen seconds left in the round that shows Oscar that he’s going to be in for a long night.

It progresses like this, and Mayweather is taking control more and more in this kinetic chess match. Floyd is landing more 1-2’s, fighting his fight and outscoring De la Hoya consistently. The winner is decided in my mind in the tenth, when Mayweather lands another hard straight right that seriously hurts Oscar, knocking him straight back. It might look like just another right to someone else, but I see that Floyd, after the punch lands, immediately pulls it straight back to his chin and is looking for another shot. It’s the tenth round, and he’s not dropping any of his technically flawless punches… and it doesn’t even look like he’s breathing heavy. Oscar doesn’t have a chance in hell.

For the next two rounds, Floyd counters and parries, always throwing punches that land as he’s backing up. It is like he is made of liquid, disappearing and reforming somewhere else. The only other man I have seen move like this is Barry Sanders, another that seemed like all of his body parts could move completely independent of each other, but were somehow not only connected, but in sync. In the end, the judges see it my way, and when they announce the winner I’m hardly surprised.

There are only two things in this world that can stop a fighter with such spectacular hand speed and defensive ability like Floyd Mayweather. The first is a taller fighter with an incredible jab and similarly stunning hand speed. Zab Judah, with his quick hands, hurt May weather a couple of times, more seriously than I’ve seen anyone else be able to. And on May 5th, the only times that Oscar remotely hurt Mayweather was when he began to work his jab (of course, he miraculously holstered it somewhere around the ninth when he decided that he didn’t actually want to win).

Yes, Castillo, the phenomenal body puncher, also gave Mayweather difficulty, but it is that combination of hand speed and strong, hard jab and quick follow ups that may beat Mayweather some day. Ironically enough, Floyd might only lose to someone exactly like him.

The second thing? Well, you know. It’s the boxer’s greatest fight… the one they always lose. One day, Floyd will be a half-second slower, and those hard straight rights that he once dodged with ease will connect. One day, those elbows won’t come down so quickly, and the hard shovel hooks thrown by the Castillos and Hattons of the world will land, and destroy his liver. One day, he will get knocked down, and out. My only hope is that he has enough sense to get out of the game before that happens, before he becomes a shell of his formerly fantastic self, another Joe Louis getting knocked out by a young, hungry Marciano, or another Roy Jones Jr. getting taken out by a mediocre Antonio Tarver.

Like all fighters, though, he will refuse to admit defeat, and will continue until the game has taken more from him than he has taken from it. It is the saddest part of our brutal, beloved sport: the inevitable wearing down of the body by Father Time, and the horrific realization that we are, indeed, mere mortals…even the inimitable Pretty boy Floyd. Maybe I’m wrong, and he’ll retire a champ, giving us the image of this fierce, young killer to hold in our heads until we’re gone….but I don’t think so.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

One Ricky Hatton

I'm strapping the glove to my right hand, which is impossibly hard when your left also has that thick black pad over it.

"Hatton's back on May 24th. Fighting Lazcano."

"I love how you love that stupid limey fighter. He fuckin' sucks. Leads with his head all the time. He's gonna' be retarded."

"That's not my problem. But he's all heart, and that's why he's my man."

I've stated before that fighting isn't like anything else. There's not a team to root for, or some nobody that can fuck it up.... no, the fight game is one on one. You root for one man to go into a ring and be as violent and brutal as he can. Along the way, you learn certain things. You get to know his style. You get to know his personality. You know how much heart he has, when he'll quit and when he won't. You'll see looks in his eyes that mean something, that mean that you know what's coming. No other sport has that, because no other sport has boxing's nature.

You'll never learn more about somebody than when they have been physically knocked down. The reaction that immediately follows is what tells you what kind of persona you have. Do you sit there stunned? Or do you get up angrier? Do you charge back in, regardless of the fact that the next time you get put down, you might die from it? It's never about winning or losing. It's about heart. It's about how you react, and how hard you'll keep on coming, even after you get knocked down.

Ricky Hatton is my favorite because he's just like me. He's not that tall, not that big, and not that talented; however, he does all that he can do, charging in and pounding to the body with brutal hooks, taking advantage of openings upstairs with whipping uppercuts. He'll never outbox you, never out-flair you. He's just going to hustle constantly, and keep pressuring you like his life depends on it... because it very much does. He's not the cleanest fighter, and certainly adverse to rabbit punching or wrestling. It's a streetfight every time with him, and you better be ready to brawl when he walks in.

He is a modern day Micky Ward- not too much talent, but all heart and soul. He dips his head, wraps your arm, and delivers the hard looping punches that he relies on. He likes drinking Guinness and playing darts, and never takes himself too seriously. Maybe it's an act, but I doubt it. He sincerely seems like the type that would buy you a beer at the end of the night when you're out of cash, and there's something to be said for that, especially amongst famous athletes.

Yes, he lost to Floyd Mayweather. But Mayweather, who is the most talented boxer alive right now, is unbeatable. If you have to lose (as all champions do) then it may as well be to the best fighter on the planet.

But on May 24th, our lad will come charging out to the strains of "Blue Moon" once again, and he'll show what champions are truly made of. He'll show us that it's not flair and style that makes champions, but grit and determination.

And once again, like always, we'll be here singing... "There's only one Ricky Hatton."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

On DRAMA!!!!

I recently bitched at the world on a Myspace survey about how women constantly say, "I don't want drama", or "This is a drama free zone". You see it all over online, especially with broads. I am convinced that it's the stupidest damn thing in the world to say.


Looking at me through whiskey drunk eyes while we're outside smoking, I see him glaring at the door.

"What the fuck are you looking at?"

"Waitin' for that motherfucker to come out the door, I'm gonna hit him."

This is my big Irish Army friend who lies to women constantly and gets far too hammered drunk for his own good. He told me years ago that Ryer and I were like the older brothers he never had, and even after all this time it's clear that I'm one of the only people around that can keep a handle on him, that he'll actually listen too.

"Like fuckin' hell you are, he's one of my buddies," I say.

"He's a dick."

At that moment my buddy walks out, and they start jawing at each other, low mumbled threats meant so that the other one could overhear. Both of them are tough kids, and a fight would be hideously ugly and end badly.

I look at my buddy, and now I'm between them. "You don't fuckin touch him, I know this guy."

Then I turn and grab Army's arm, leading him away. I turn to him and point directly in his face. "You don't fuckin do anything. You fucking hear me?"

"But he's a dick, he's-"

"I don't want to hear it. You remember The Departed? You remember the guy who tells people who they can hit and who they can't? Well, that's fuckin' me. And I say you don't fucking hit him."

He looks upset, like a puppy you just kicked, but this is for his own good. "Fine," he mumbles.

"Where do you live? How you gettin' home?"

"I'm walkin, I live down there. Look, fuck that kid-"

"HEY! I don't want to fuckin hear it. This ain't optional. Get fucking moving."

He looks at me open mouthed, as if he has something else to say, but all he manages is a resigned, "Fine..." He turns around, begins to trail off, stumbling down the road.

Had it continued any more, I would have had to pull the Ryer card with my other buddy, and tell him that if Ryer was here he would kill him for laying a hand on Army. I don't like bringing him up, because it can ruin a night quickly and depress the hell out people... but I was not about to watch anyone touch him. As much as I'm like his older brother, he's like my younger one, and I have to watch out for him because no one else will. His parents hate him for being a stupid drunk, his grandfather threw him out, and his friends are shakily loyal. That's bad when you like whiskey and have a big mouth, but there's nothing I can do. I won't watch him get beat down by anybody.


"DRAMA!" And you know what? When I'm on my deathbed, I will wish like hell for ten more minutes of that same "drama" that all the broads hate so much. If you want to drink, fight, fuck, live, then drama is entwined in all of it. Good luck getting away from it.

I fuckin loooooovvveeeee it!

Friday, March 14, 2008


If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones. - John Steinbeck

I will miss them, these fuckin idiots I work with at the shop. They are always whistling at each other, sharp whistles that would make a dog heel. They call out, tap fists every time they pass, call your name and hold their fists up as they walk by, wordlessly. It's strange until you figure out that they're just saying what's up, and that's the way they do it. There is a strong sense of camraderie that pervades the place, as if they were going to war tomorrow instead of just fabricating metal parts.


He's a short, stocky guy with a thick Indian accent. He always adds an "S" to the end of my name; it might because of his serious lack of teeth. We are standing by the time clock waiting to punch out for lunch when one of the Mexicans comes up behind him, reaches around, and grabs his chest.

"Motherfucker! See Irishes, you gots to watch these motherfuckers, there a bunch of fuckin fags around here. Watch yourself Irishes. Especially this fuckin guy, he a fucking tinkerbell." He looks at the Mexican with disdain. "You motherfucker."

The Mexican gives a hearty laugh, and mumbles, "Pendejo"


He stands at a mighty 5'2", ironic because his name is Maximillion. He's older, and wears glasses when he's doing work that requires his close attention. English is not his forte, but when he talks to the other Hispanics he uses great swooping gestures and his voice rises and falls like the waves. Don't ever think that people who don't speak your language are dopey, for this guy is certainly as animated as anyone I've ever met. He is also quiet and watchful, and those qualities often belie a sharp mind.

Alicia Keys' No One reverbs through the shop, ringing off the metal machines and echoes off through the walls. When it gets to the "Oh oh oh oh ohhhhhhh" chorus section, he raises his arms and starts swaying, yelling out the words as he goes. He sees me laughing at him, and he looks at me and smiles, raising his arms in a shrug as you would if you were saying "I don't know"

"Who?" he asks me.

He answers himself definitively: "NO ONE, NO ONE, NO ONEEEEEEEE!!"

He does this every time the song comes on, which comes out to about three times a day.


He strides through the garage door, a cigar blazing and his head bopping to my radio, and Biggie Smalls is halfway through Hypnotize when he catches the beat and starts smiling, bopping his head in the cloud of smoke that trails him and he's singing the words, "Biggie Biggie Biggie, can't you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me".... This is my tall black buddy, a genuinely intelligent man who is wasting his time working the grunt work that this shop provides. He married a Puerto Rican chick, and has a little daughter who I'm sure, like so many women of mixed heritage, will be a knockout one day. If she's anything like her father, then she will be smart as hell, too. It bothers me that he still works there- there is alot of things he could do using his mind instead of his hands... not to mention the world needs smart black men out there proving that the stereotypes are unequivocally wrong.

I picked up the phrase, "That's right pimpin" from him, and he's truly one of the coolest cats I've ever met.

I bought him American Gangster as a parting gift, and we start watching it at lunch. He gets antsy as Denzel owns the the screen and the tension builds like a glacier, but one where there's an avalanche at the end.

"Irish, you the fuckin man. Thanks man."


He's cool in the way that only an old black man can be. He's another short one, and ambles in the way that old men do. He's got a graying goatee that is often obscured in sweet smelling smoke from the pipe he always has, which he often smokes while simultaneously chewing tobacco and wearing a nicotine patch.

"I'm glad you leavin. Ain't no future here for you. I keep telling these other motherfuckers, "What the fuck you doin here? That tall motherfucker especially. He's bright, ain't no reason for him to work here. I mean, you get hurt and they don't give two shits about it. Look."

He takes the glove off his left hand, and shows me two deformed fingers that are, honestly, a mess. "I done got mashed up twice here. They don't care. You go to retire, ain't no pension. They give you a shit party and throw you out. I'd leave if I was younger, but I'm old, don't nobody want an old motherfucker like me. I'm glad you leavin'."

He's got a calender in his welding booth that has nearly naked women posing, and one shot is of a girl at the beach as the sunset. Her ass takes up most of the shot, and it is a fine ass at that. Apparently he thinks so too, because I haven't seen that calender change months since I've worked there. At one point he calls me "daddio", and it's the coolest damn thing I've ever heard.

He comes up before he leaves and shakes my hand. "It's been a pleasure working with you. I hope you make it. See you when I see you."


He's an oak tree of a man, with a black goatee and a black hat perched on his head. A tan flannel jacket covers his back. He's Hispanic of some type, and he diddy bops through the shop every day yelling out, "Ju liiike it? Ju like it? I looovvveeee it." He doesn't say this once in a while, or even often. He says it every time someone walks by him, or he walks by someone, or he's yelling it across the shop to someone. It got to the point where I really thought that's all he could say in English.

"Hey man! Hey man!"


"Ju like it? Ju like it?"

You answer back, "Hell yeah baby, I like it!"

He smiles, "OK baby, I fuckin' loooovvveee it"

You never let on that you have no idea what he's talking about.

He surprised me today, with perhaps the best thing I've ever heard from a person's lips. We're cleaning metal phalanges when he starts talking.

"Man, life is fucking beautiful man. I a poor old man, ju know? I sixty-four years old. I fuckin happy. I see these young guys, they walk around with lots of money, they miserable! Not happy! Fuck that man! I happy! I like it! I looooovveeee it! Is beautiful!"

This guy is talking about life. Regardless of the fact that he's old, and that I think his foot is rotting off, and he is barely at work because of it... he walks around saying every second "Life is beautiful, and I fucking love it".

Why I really will miss blue collar work is because of the characters. I'm sure there's people like this in the professional world, but there is one thing that seperates us from them, and this fella epitomizes it when, ten minutes after telling me this, he says how he wants to stab one of the other guys in the kidney twenty times because he's an asshole. He then acts out what the guy will look like when he falls, and even though he's serious I can't stop smiling.

I'm going to watch out for these motherfuckers, these crazy, beer drinking, life loving idiots. Management would rape them in a second if they could, and it's guys like me that have to watch their asses, and publicize it when someone tries to screw them. I'll be, like Steinbeck, a watchdog for the working classes, to make sure these hardworking fuckers get exactly what they deserve for doing the job that you don't want to do.

They'll teach you a lot, if you listen. But you have to listen.

I fuckin looooveee it too baby. I really do.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Some call it better...

He's fat, with a goofy jacket that only makes him look fatter and a hat and sunglasses that make him look like a tourist. He lights a cigarette, and starts talking to one of my friends who leers at him with curious disgust. I'm right there with him. We've just gotten off the train and are heading into the heart of Hoboken for the St. Patrick's Day parade and celebration that is a couple weeks early.

"Look, I fought some guy." He holds up a swollen right hand that's not in good shape. "Last night, I fought some guy. He was like 6'10". I got'em though. I always get in fights when I go out... will you guys help me if I get in a fight?"

It takes all I have to not laugh at him. It takes even more to not be terribly dickheaded and tell him that we don't want him following us and BSing. We're being pretty nasty towards him though, being as none of us want to be bothered with this annoying fat man.

"No, we won't," we all say, nearly in unison.

"Oh.." He looks disheartened in a pathetic way. "They told me people in Hoboken are nice... you guys aren't nice."

I look at him when dead eyes. "You're looking for the Yuppies. They're off today."

We swing into a liquor store and buy a couple pints of whiskey for the walk. I put it in my breast pocket, and grab a long straw so I can slide it down into the bottle in the midst of a crowded bar. It's working well, and I'm all over trying to keep a handle on one of my compatriots who is walking up to every broad in front of him and dancing and talking. I am apologizing and bullshitting with a mediocre looking Polish girl about Warsaw or something when I see my friend whirling like a gyre, resisting the futile dance towards the door that the bouncer is making him do.

"Isn't that your friend?" the blond says to me.

"Ahhh fuck me yea it is."

It's been a long while since I got thrown out of a bar, the last time being last St. Patty's day when I connected with a right hook so big that it shattered the bones in my hand and started all my problems. I've never had a bouncer put his hands on me, a good thing because when I'm drunk enough to not listen to you telling me to leave, I'm drunk enough to hit you. It's likely that I'm the guy that Rob the Bouncer complains about all the time (minus the coke habit that the guidos have.)

It's a two way street with bouncers. I'm very respectful to most people, and I don't go out to cause trouble. I know your night sucks, and I'm not there to make it worse. But if you think that the black "STAFF" written on your shirt gives you the authority to talk to me like the cops talk to me, you are sadly mistaken. These bouncers were assholes, and I decided when I was sober that if this guy put his hands on me, he was getting my signature right hook to the body.

"Let's go to Trinity".

"Let's go to City Bistro".

My buddy looks at the girls, blowing smoke up with a quizzical look. "Bistro? Sounds like a fag place. I won't drink anywhere called a "bistro."

I realize how oddly out place I feel here. The people aren't dressed any better, and certainly aren't as good looking as me, but there's a heavy arrogance that wafts off the water, pervades every bar here. The guys are, well, complete metrosexual bitches, and the women have their noses so far in the air that it's a wonder they're not walking into chairs. The bars are hip places, but the people just suck.

I remember playing Hoboken for the State Championships back in my football days. They were all blacks and Puerto Ricans, tough, lean kids and you saw it in their eyes, that look that boxers have when they're coming up through the ranks- they were hungry. They wanted out. No more ghettoes- these boys were playing for their mammas, playing to escape and get to college where the white kids would idolize them for the talents on the field, and there'd be no more bangin'. They weren't like playing the Paterson teams, which were lazy, fundamentally unsound messes. No, playing them was like playing guys who were fighting for their lives.

As I look down Washington Street, with its lines of neon lit bars, $3.50 dark roast coffee latte joints with fake ass French names and red signs, and liquor stores where a pint of JD costs $15, I can only shake my head.

Some people would say the place is better now. You'll hear the catchphrases, the same ones they're throwing around about Newark and Jersey City now. "Safer." "Cleaner." "Happier." I say it's lost it's heart, sold out amongst a sea of commercialism.

Where those kids at now... where's that hungry look? Even though I have a job that is going to be filled with actual professionals, I always want that connection to the streets. I'm not from them, make no mistake; but I know plenty of guys who are. When I start boxing, that's who I want to be around. They'll keep you down to Earth, they'll keep you jabbing, they'll never let you sit back.

That's why I say give me a strip club in Newark any day over this souless mess, give me the place where people are struggling and striving and there's flames in the streets burning like an flash fire and riots are always a step away. That's passion baby... That's fire.


This is baby boomer shit. And you motherfuckers can keep it.