Let’s Remember a Guy

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(Pictured: the man himself, 2008.)

There’s a thing that’s gained popularity lately, thanks mostly to the writers at Defector, who started doing it on slow days at their former website, Deadspin: “let’s remember some guys.” It’s pretty simple: you come up with the name of an athlete from out of the past and discuss your memories of him. They didn’t invent it, however. “Remembering some guys” has been going on for as long as men have had time to talk about sports. (Somebody on Twitter, I forget who, suggested that men talk about guys as a way to have deep and involved conversations without having to discuss emotions, hopes, dreams, and the sort of stuff men are often not comfortable sharing with one another. I think that’s probably true.) 

A related activity involves the collection of unusual names. To do this in the modern world, you walk a line that didn’t exist years ago. You gotta ask whether it’s racist to note the unusual-ness of certain Black athletes’ names that include nonstandard capitalization and punctuation marks. Although it’s worth noting that some of the strangest names you can find right now are among pro golfers and lacrosse players, two of the whitest sports in America. 

So anyway: this piece appeared in its original form at my first blog, The Daily Aneurysm, on May 21, 2006. A slightly revised and edited version has been sitting in my Drafts file for nearly 10 years, going back to when I first had the idea of repeating old Aneurysm posts here. I looked at it the other day after a brief Twitter exchange about great baseball names, and added the link in the first paragraph.

Over the years, I have collected odd names. It’s easier now than it used to be. Some of the names parents hang on kids today seem so strange, and sometimes so flatly cruel, that you can’t help but notice them. I am thinking here of the parents who wanted to name their son Tim, but for whom Tim was simply too pedestrian, so they named him Tymme, or the parents who created future strippers by naming their daughters Wytnee or Lynzi.

I was collecting athlete names first, however. It started way back in the 60s and 70s, with names like Pedro Borbon and Cephus Weatherspoon. But despite my experience with odd names, nothing prepared me for the latest one I found: Boof Bonser. Boof is a pitcher who will make his major-league debut for the Minnesota Twins today [5/21/06] against the Milwaukee Brewers.

In defense of his parents, Boof’s name is self-inflicted. His parents named him John Paul. (John Paul Bonser isn’t a bad rock-star name, actually—a chainsaw lead guitarist in a heavy-metal band, maybe.) Somebody nicknamed him Boof at some point, and he legally changed his name to Boof a few years ago.

When I first heard the jokes about Boof, I laughed along with them. But that was before I realized his name has magical powers. When you speak the name “Boof Bonser” aloud, something happens. You have to smile. Endorphins are released.…All the trouble in the world seems mitigated by the fact that there’s a guy named Boof walking around and sharing it with us.…

Try it.

It’s particularly fun to say if you do it like a ballpark announcer.

Boof Bonser started 60 games for the Twins in three years, including a start in the 2006 ALDS. In 2009, he appeared in only one minor-league game, so I suspect he was injured that year. After the 2009 season, the Twins traded him to the Red Sox, but he appeared in only two games for them in 2010 and was released in June. The A’s picked him up, and he appeared in 13 games, the last one in October 2010, at the butt-end of the season. After that, he was signed by the Mets, Giants, and Cleveland organizations, and pitched in the minors without making it back to the Show. In 2013 he pitched in China and in the independent Atlantic League. Lifetime major league record: 19 wins, 25 losses, earned-run average 5.12, and WHIP 1.459. 

If you would like to remember some other guy, please do so in the comments. 

Uncommon Ground

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Doing radio every day has cut into my fooling-around-with-the-blog time. So here’s something that’s been sitting in my Drafts file for a while.

Here’s something you may not know, even if you’ve been reading this blog for a while: I have an interest in the paranormal. It goes back to grade school. I’ve read all of the most famous paranormal populizers, from Charles Fort and Colin Wilson to Frank Edwards and Brad Steiger, and I follow a few paranormal feeds on Twitter. My interest is in oddities and strangeness, as opposed to ghosts, monsters, and aliens. I am, however, a skeptic. Like Fort, who did not often attempt to explain what he reported, it’s enough for me to know that something happened. If it can’t be explained by our current knowledge of the world, that’s OK. I don’t need to know the reasons for everything, and I have no patience for speculations that the evidence won’t support.

If I were a more credulous person—if I, like Fox Mulder, wanted to believe—maybe I would have a lot of personal experiences involving the sort of oddities and strangeness that interest me. But I have had only a few.

Continue reading “Uncommon Ground”

The Same Thing, Only Different

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I’ve told the story before, I think. My blogging days began in 2001, shortly after 9/11, when I used a sliver of web space from my ISP to put up something I called “Rant of the Day.” In 2003, I started The Daily Aneurysm, named because there’s always something in the news that makes you want to have a stroke. I stopped writing it in 2006, and it’s no longer available online because somebody squatted on the domain name. For several years I contributed to a current-events site called Best of the Blogs, which also no longer exists. The Hits Just Keep on Comin’ was born in 2004.

Despite focusing on music and radio over here, I still have some of the same impulses to write about current events and other topics that I had years ago. Most of the time, I simply lie down until they go away. Since 2020 went to Hell, however, those impulses have been stronger than before. I have written a lot of stuff that I ended up not posting here because it feels off-brand, to the extent that I have established a brand. I’d like to stick to music, radio, and music/radio-as-memoir pieces here as much as possible, which means that pieces about life on lockdown and other current topics don’t really fit.

Also, it’s likely you come here for diversion from the Great American Dumpster Fire, and not to engage with it. Maybe you come here because you like the music and radio stuff in spite of the fact that I’m a commie-lib atheist. And if either of those is the case, I don’t want to drive you away.

So: if you’re interested in reading that other stuff—about current events, maybe some sports now and then, rebooted pieces I find in my journals, and/or whatever additional flotsam comes into view—please enter your e-mail below. This is different from whatever subscribing or following you have already done with this website. It’s a whole ‘nother thing.

There is no guarantee that when you sign up for this list, you will actually receive anything. I’m starting off by gauging interest, and if it turns out to be insufficient (which will not offend me in the slightest, by the way), this idea will disappear into the ether and we shall never speak of it again.

Outside the Bubble

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I keep writing these Life on Lockdown pieces and then not posting them because I decide that they won’t do anybody any good. Neither will this one, probably.

Continue reading “Outside the Bubble”

Before the Sky Falls In

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(Pictured: last day of school hell yeah.)

Here’s more Life on Lockdown, in which we ramble around to whatever seems ramble-worthy.

If my local districts have stuck to their pre-plague calendars, school is getting out right about now. There is no feeling in adult life that’s analogous to the last-day-of-school feeling, except maybe for voluntarily quitting a job in favor of a better one. You walk out with mingled senses of relief, accomplishment, freedom, and expectation—especially the last two, when you’re a kid out of school. Three months stretch out in front of you rich with possibility. You realize that yes, you’ll probably have to work, either chores at home or hours for The Man in exchange for a paycheck, and that it won’t all be golden time. But some of it will be.

What kids are thinking this year, I don’t know. Their world has been gravely circumscribed by the plague. Some continue to work as usual—my nephew, for example, finishing his junior year in high school, has been working the grill at Culvers all through the pandemic and will continue to do so this summer. Others will find their summer plans scrubbed: no hangouts with friends, no music or Scout camp, no family vacation.

I see kids in my neighborhood, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs or trios, on skateboards or scooters or just walking along, and I wonder what they’re saying to themselves and to one another. Do they understand just how deep is the trouble we’re in?

I am torn about whether I want them to understand it. I have written previously about 1975, when between inflation and international tension and the energy crisis and the culture wars, it must have seemed to many adults that the nation was falling apart—but also how our parents did the worrying for us, and how my brothers and me, aged 15, 13, and 9, barely knew how bad it was. I don’t think it harmed us to be protected from the worst of it. And as it turned out, we survived it as a family, and as a nation. This crisis is vastly worse, however, and all of the potential outcomes seem terrible. Some kids know the score—the number of young people who have been involved in the recent protests against brutal policing is inspiring to geezers such as I. For the youngest kids, there will be a time when they’ll have to understand, but not yet. For now, let them have a little bit of carefree summer before the sky falls in.

On another subject:

Continue reading “Before the Sky Falls In”

The Big City

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It’s 20 years today since The Mrs. and I officially moved from Iowa, where we’d lived for all but three of the previous 18 years, to the suburbs of Madison. We are still in the condo we bought thinking we’d stay in it three years, and it occurs to me that I have lived in this place about as long as I lived in my parents’ house before I moved into my first apartment at college. Here’s some of a thing I wrote in 2009 about the role Madison played in my life before we got here. Stuff in square brackets has been added for 2020.

I grew up about hour away, but I have no memories of coming here before I was 10. Once the big shopping mall opened, in October 1970, a month in which all things seem to have begun, my family would periodically come up to shop on Sunday afternoons. Malls were not ubiquitous then; they could still amaze with their exotic spaces—sunken lounges, fountains—and stores you wouldn’t find anywhere else. We marveled at the existence of a place that sold nothing but pretzels, and I bought lots of records at the Victor Music store. My aunt and uncle moved here in 1972, which meant that summer vacations with my cousin were now trips to the big city. He was pretty good at navigating the bus system, so we moved easily from their house on the west side to downtown and back. It didn’t take long before I became a connoisseur of the State Street scene, although I’d like to see it back then with the eyes I have now.

But you didn’t have to visit Madison to feel steeped in its culture. Most of the TV we watched came from Madison’s three network affiliates and its PBS station, and I read the Wisconsin State Journal every day. Places you’d never seen became familiar thereby. You knew about Rennebohm Rexall Drug Stores before you ever set foot in one, and Manchester’s Department Store, and the Strand Theater [all of which are gone now]. You knew the names of major streets like Atwood Avenue, Pflaum Road, and Mifflin Street long before you knew where they went. And you knew Madison’s local celebrities, from mayors to sports stars to characters famous and infamous.

It was the mid 70s before Madison radio became as influential to me as Madison TV. I discovered Z104, an automated FM rock station, shortly after it threw the switch in the fall of 1974, and I listened a little to WISM, the AM Top 40 station, although its signal at home wasn’t especially good, and to WIBA-FM during its days as a free-form rock station. [And to WISM-FM, the future Magic 98, where I would one day work and hope to work again, if they ever call me back.] It didn’t take long before a gig in Madison radio began to seem to me like the best of all possible careers—if Chicago radio didn’t work out. When it came time to go to college, I desperately wanted to attend the University of Wisconsin. But it didn’t have the kind of broadcasting program I wanted, so I ended up at another school, which turned out to be the right choice after all. I found radio jobs in Iowa and in Illinois, but I hoped I’d get to Madison someday.

Finally, in 2000, out of radio entirely, we were able to make the move. I remember a conversation with The Mrs. in which I said that even if the job I was taking turned out to be a poor choice, at least we’d be back in Wisconsin. (After it turned out I was right about the job being a poor choice, being in Wisconsin was less consolation than I hoped it would be, although it must have helped a little.) We’ve been here ever since, and while the thought that either of us might be able to advance our careers elsewhere occasionally flits across our minds, we never take it seriously. This is where we belong, and it’s where we expect to stay.

Back to music stuff tomorrow, I promise.