Friday, October 21, 2005

Indian Summer of an Uncle

"Gambler tried to be a family man, though it didn't suit his style..." - Warren Zevon

I've always striven to be an avuncular figure, having benefited from many such people myself. One of the beauties of uncledom is that it probably affords the greatest opportunity for corruption of minors, while requiring the least convincing credentials as a relative. In recent months, I have been blazing new territory as an uncle, not of the cigar-smoking and racetrack-frequenting but the diaper-changing and baby-rocking brand.

If this sounds unusual, let me begin by reassuring you all that my brother, despite a thriving practice as a heterosexual, has not sired any offspring. Rather, I have been named uncle on an honorary basis, this being the best kind. Since July, I have enjoyed an exalted position with seven-month-old Molly Zander Franklin, she of the very big hair. Then, a few minutes after midnight on Wednesday, Oct 12, the world welcomed one of its newest constituents, Sage Beryl Tarozzi Melton, who checked in at a robust 8 lbs 6 oz. I had the pleasure of visiting this charming individual yesterday evening, although I had a devil of a time getting Uncle Pete (Conway VIII) to relinquish her for even a moment.

Sage's parents, Forrest (an earth scientist) and Kristine (a dancer), have teamed up on a number of ventures before, and have always hit a home run. It was no surprise, then, that their latest and most important contribution should be so stupendous. In days of yore, momentous events required that the poets of the age chip in with an occasional poem, and while I have always shrugged off the title of "poet", thinking it rather akin to "bum", I did hazard a sonnet in honor of Ms. Melton. It is slightly sweeter in sentiment than my usual fare, but give the kid a break - she's less than ten days old.


for Sage Beryl Tarozzi Melton

It's almost something of a magic trick,
A mystery sublime on which to pore,
This strange and wonderful arithmetic:
How love combined with love makes something more.

The glint of glass, the headiest of scents
And greenery enough for woodland elves;
You fashioned her of precious elements –
A leaf, a stone. And something of yourselves.

She'll grow to love the mountains and the sea
And revel in the wild and the wet.
She'll dance above the bounds of gravity,
And teach the gasping clouds to pirouette.

Look upward now. A harvest moon's agleam.
Bid sleep goodbye – and welcome in your dream.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Into the Abyss

Darling, the seasons are changing
See now, the leaves, how they die
Love needs no reason for ending
Come kiss your baby goodbye.

- Kris Kristofferson

That chill some of you may have noticed in the air could be a metaphor for your own crumbling relationships, but I would prefer to think that it is simply the advent of autumn. Of course, this subtle metamorphosis is not without its own attendant catastrophes, not the least of which is the return of the Carmel Valley Mud Football League (CVMFL) to the hallowed fields of Carmel Middle School. For those of you who don’t know, this is the greatest sporting event around – if you’re as shamelessly provincial as me, that is. In the interests of my readers’ continuing education, I am pleased to offer the First Ever Carmel Valley Mud Football League Season Preview, or, for short, the FECVM…ahh, fuck it. Let’s get down to the essentials.


The CVMFL had its humble origins on the grass fields of Tularcitos Elementary School in the winter of 1999. In those days, it was known as the Tularcitos Football Association, or TFA. Games were often played 5 on 5, and the style of play was largely defined by aggressive passing, vicious open-field tackling, and frequent trick plays involving wedgies. Original members included Josh and Matt Brown, Gueren White, Brian Stromberg, Adrian diMambro, Sabian Ford, and the Baer Brothers, whose father Wolfgang distinguished himself by competing in a game. The hammering he received from then-linebacker Gabe “The Kosher Butcher” Rosen led to the institution of a new rule, which required that all players must suck during their first game or they will not be invited back. This rule was taken to extremes by several people, but their identities are immaterial.

In late 2000, in the interests of expanding the game to include more town kids, contests were held on the front field of Carmel Middle School after rainstorms. The field’s large patches of mud, slick grass, and variable elevation put a premium on special teams play, as numerous kickoff returns went for touchdowns. Over the next few years, the game witnessed a number of changes. Increased participation led to more defined roles for the players. The old “five-alligator” format was abandoned in favor of designated offensive and defensive linemen. Offensive play-calling took on even more prominence, as quarterbacks found themselves with more weapons to choose from. Finally, although some purists decried it as “no fun”, the running game became an indispensable part of the offense.


Many of us have moved on to bigger places, but none of us have grown up. As long as we keep coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the CVMFL ain’t going nowhere. The cartilage in my knee, on the other hand…

As it comes time to start thinking about what this season might bring, I now offer you a list of names to keep an eye on, as well as some developing plotlines.

Andreas Baer:
The biggest of the brothers, Andreas’ friendly personality belies his deadliness on the football field. With his size and hands, any ball he catches over the middle has the chance to go all the way. On defense he has the brawn to man any of the line positions, and the speed to drop back in coverage. He projects as an outside rush linebacker, but don’t be too quick to pigeonhole him. It’ll be your ass that pays. Only question: Is he mean enough?

Beau Baer: Beau is one of the great enigmas of the league, an unstoppable offensive force who has the tendency to disappear from too many plays. With Beau, there is always a lingering sense that he knows something you don’t, and he thrives on the uneasiness created by his unique approach to the tight end position. He has also added the bulk to shift over to guard or tackle, as needed. On defense, you never know which Beau you will get – but the same could be said for life in general.

Adam Canepa: A threat at quarterback, receiver, and safety, Canepa’s greatest strength might be his unflappable confidence and resilience. You can sack him three plays in a row, but on fourth, he will bury you with a bullet over the middle or a long dash down the sideline. With above-average strength, he is capable of taking a pounding – or giving one.

Marc Chaney:
Marc is a true deep threat. His crisp route-running and sure hands have made many a quarterback look better than he really ought to. Chaney is especially adept in traffic, and the old adage that what goes up, must come down could well be amended to include the phrase “into Marc Chaney’s hands”.

Niyago Fields: The premier passer in the game, Niyago’s 220-lb frame allows him to plow through the competition time and again. Blessed with a great feel for the game and a lightning-quick release, he can do it all, beating teams with his legs, his arm, and his head. A player-coach in the mold of Bill Russell, his teams rally around him whenever they are in trouble.

Conrad Harder:
One of the CVMFL’s Young Turks, Conrad is a former nose tackle making the unorthodox transition to middle linebacker. His game is not a flashy one, but his mistakes are few, and his durability over the course of a long season is unquestionable – no small asset in this league. Also a servieable guard or tackle.

Jacob Hendrix:
Despite the numerous accusations he has weathered that he’s a girl (all of them originating with his stepfather Greg), Jake comes to play. No laggard himself, this former track standout boasts 4.4 speed, as well as an emerging sense of the game. A dangerous addition at either tailback or slot receiver, he is also learning to go wide. When that happens, watch out.

Helgi Jonsson: The craziest man in the league, bar none, “Hella” Helgi serves as the rush end on the defensive front known as the Flatliners, along with left end Gabe Rosen and nose tackle Tom Logan. Relentless in both his pursuit of the quarterback and his blatant disregard for basic human decency, this sociopath of a defensive lineman combines the exploitation of the Thai sex trade with the berserker mentality of his Viking forebears.

Jon Jonsson: “America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model” flashes an equally handsome game, using his 4.3 speed as a two-way threat. The only question concerning his game must be, “Who will get him the ball?” An ace at either cornerback or free safety, Jonsson can be counted on to score nearly as many points on interception returns and fumble recoveries as he will on catches.

Brooks Klassen: A transplanted Alabaman, Klassen makes up for in shit-talking what he lacks in charisma or honor. Don’t be surprised, however, to find him under center – and do not discount his abilities.

Lee Lightfoot: Blessed with above-average height and hair, Lightfoot is a serviceable receiver. He may not always get the most looks, but those he gets, he capitalizes on. His true skill, however, is on special teams, both the return and coverage units. He has been called a dirty player numerous times, but if he is playing dirty for your team, you really can’t complain.

Tom Logan: Although he is nominally a nose tackle, Logan goes far beyond simply taking up space. Incredibly strong, he holds his ground against even the strongest interior linemen, dominating the line of scrimmage. A gifted pass rusher, he also has a penchant for the forced fumble and the batted-down pass. With more angry exes than the rest of the league combined, he has developed unparalleled powers of anticipation.

Reese MacDonald:
A converted lacrosse player, MacDonald is still learning the ropes at outside linebacker. With his frame, however, he has exciting potential, and don’t be surprised if this is the year that he learns to leverage his considerable assets and stop getting run over in the open field.

Eric Reid:
“Weed”, as he uncharitably called, is a quarterback who relies on steadiness, leadership, and versatility. Although not a rocket-armed pocket passer or lightning-quick scrambler, he displays deceptive speed, even for a white quarterback. Reid does all of the little things well, which adds up to a very valuable player.

Evan “Kraken” Rosen:
As flashy and flamboyant as his brother is grim-faced and gravel-voiced, Evan is emblematic of the new generation of CVMFL stars. Lanky and flexible, with limbs like a Slinky, he is known for his acrobatic grabs and his synergy with quarterback Fields. Always more interested in the past in looking pretty than getting down and dirty, Rosen promises this is the year he starts corralling running backs and receivers the way he does the long ball.

Gabe Rosen:
This icon of football's early, brutal origins is nearly unblockable as a pass rusher, and unstoppable as a rushing fullback. Boasting increased speed and stamina and carrying ten fewer pounds than last season, look for the man once called “Deadly Force” to flash an all-around presence on defense, occasionally dropping back into coverage to take advantage of the bad throws forced by his fellow defensive linemen. Also a player-coach, Rosen’s defensive schemes keep opposing coordinators on their toes, and opposing players on their backs.

Russel Wolter:
An old-school center. Physical, nasty, and big, Wolter directs movement from the game's epicenter. Able to play any position on the offensive line, Russel may not have finished school, but he definitely finishes his blocks, rarely missing an assignment. Proven to play through pain, he is also a valuable defensive tackle. It's almost impossible to believe he was ever a vegan.

Burning Questions:

What old-timers will return for a long-overdue comeback performance? And will we even recognize them?

Will this be the year that the sophistication of the blocking schemes finally catches up with that of the pass rush? For that matter, will run blocking become a priority in its own right?

Will the bad blood between the Rosen brothers result in a contest for the ages, or ultimately prove a distraction to their respective teams?

Will Andreas finally put to rest lingering questions concerning his sexuality, and, if so, will anyone notice?

Will the success of the quick-strike, short-passing scheme, a huge factor in a come-from-behind victory engineered by Niyago Fields, result in a more efficient overall game, with fewer game-changing interceptions? Or will the wildness native to the CVMFL win out in the end?

Will any phantom Canepa brothers emerge from behind Adam?

Who will be this year’s star you’ve never heard of?

Has anyone read this far? If so, I owe you one of Mom’s famous brownies. Talk to me later.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Am Fucking Insane

I don’t actually have anything to say right now that would justify an entire post, so I will once again resort to that cop-out of all cop-outs, the grab bag. Comb through carefully, because you never know what you’ll find. You might be disgusted, you might be mildly amused, you might even learn something. Well, OK, I’m lying about that last one.

What is with basketball players reaching out for their teammates’ hands after bricking the free throw? Hello, Sparky. You fucked up. This practice, not namby-pamby liberalism, is responsible for this new America in which no one is allowed to feel like a failure, even if he is one.

Check out Raw-B's latest musical gem, produced by the inimitable Sean Donnelly for Double Chin Productions.

Memo to Harry Reid: Now is not a time to be making nice. When your president nominates his barber for the Supreme Court, you start piling on. I don’t care if Harriet Miers signed a promise to protect Roe in her own blood. The Democrats don’t need another apologist. They need an attack dog with a collar made of razor wire.

Today, I went scuba diving with “Iron” Mike Guardino. The great thing about scuba diving is that you get to compete with nature on her own terms. Fins? Got ‘em. Breathing underwater? You guessed it. The only difference? After about forty-five minutes, I will be back on dry land enjoying a hot shower and an ice-cold beer, while you, my marine friend, will remain blinking vapidly. On the other hand, I guess we’ll both be happy.

Hopefully the fish aren’t talking to each other. After a twelve-year absence or so, I made my triumphant re-entry into the pantheon of exalted anglers, catching four rainbow trout Saturday in a remote, possibly nameless alpine location. Because Professor Logan set the itinerary, of course, we spent three times as many hours driving as we did fishing. My catch got the classic treatment: brown butter, Carmel Valley-grown thyme and tarragon, Meyer lemon from Richard Rosen Orchards, and a tall glass of Coca-Cola on the side.

People are idiots. I was at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company the other day, and ran into a fellow I knew from the old days (in fact, this guy was banned from the Ocean Avenue location). He asked what I was up to, so I showed him the website for the gentleman I represent. He got visibly distressed, and began lecturing me about how dangerous it was to do business with Arabs, and how they all hate Jews, and support terror, and dress badly. I informed him that Mr. Sethi was, in fact, a Punjabi Sikh. He was familiar with neither the national origin nor the religion. This did not, however, stop him from laughing in my face when I suggested that the current administration was pursuing a dangerous and uneducated course in the Middle East. He also insisted to me that the deficit does not actually affect you or me. I should probably have beaten him senseless. Instead, I went and bought some Spanish wine. Hopefully this is not a preview of my political career, where decisive action must take precedence over my depressants hobby.

Finally, I should mention that Friday’s gumbo was my finest ever, and Myles L. Williams is the greatest man to ever walk the earth.