h1

Bob Moose

February 19, 2008
  

Elysium

(continued from Richie Hebner)

Chapter Two

The downsloping corridor narrows to a tunnel. I keep going. It begins slightly curving to the left as it descends. I catch glimpses of the back of Richie Hebner’s windbreaker for a while but soon lose sight of him altogether. There’s not much light. The cold clay walls and ceiling continue to constrict. I keep going. I start to hunch down to keep from hitting my head. But instead of hunching down I grow smaller. I grow smaller and lighter and younger. This happens with the same slight but visceral inner effort, a tensing of the stomach muscles, that in dreams of flight precedes liftoff. I start to hunch down and instead grow smaller and lighter and younger. Meanwhile, the leftward curve of the tunnel sharpens. I see in my mind the shape of my route so far. I’m in a spiral. A downward spiral. In dreams when the world is too much we lift up off the ground and fly. Here as I move away from the world the way I always do, in a downward spiral, I keep growing smaller and lighter and younger. And I keep going.

Finally the tunnel narrows to a dead end, the tip of the spiral. I’ve grown as small and light and young as a child. I can barely see anything. I can feel where the tunnel comes to an end. There are clumps of hard cold dirt there, like the replaced chunks of a freshly dug hole. I pull at them and through the cracks that open I see flashes of light. I know these cold hard chunks. I know this hole, this grave. I hear a muffled voice. It comes from the other side, below the chunks.

“The fuck?” the voice says.

The flashes continue, accompanied each time by a quick, flinty sound, like a lock opening. And, closer to me, just on the other side of the piled chunks, there is the faint sound of whimpering. I know this whimpering. I know where I am. This is the fall of 1976. I’m 8. I’m pulling the chunks of earth away. On the other side comes the flinty chk and a flash of light. The hole opens wider and I see I’m not the only one making an opening. This is the fall of 1976 and I’m shivering and the long winter is about to start and the ground is frozen and our beautiful dog Jupiter has just died and my stepfather Tom has spent all afternoon weeping while pick-axing the frozen ground to make a grave and we’ve said our goodbyes and cried in the backyard and he’s gone but he’s not gone he’s pulling away at the chunks right now just like I am and here he is.

Here he is alive again.

Jupiter, Jupiter, I try to say, the words buried, tremors. Hey boy.

He barges his muscular body through the opening and begins licking my wet salty face, his whole self wagging. I kiss his fuzzy muzzle and hug him and pet him. When we moved to Vermont he was the beautiful heartbeat of our family, a big red and black and gold song of pure motion in love with everything alive. The stranger who hit him with a pickup truck carried him to our doorway in tears.

Now he darts in the direction I’ve come but immediately returns when I don’t follow. He was always that way. Is always that way. Darting up ahead and then checking back with everyone one at a time, every hike for him a hundred times longer than for any of us.

“Just bought this piece of shit from the mini-mart,” the voice on the other side of the opening mutters.

I pet Jupiter with one hand and pull away enough of the chunks of his beaten grave to allow my body to pass through. Jupiter whimpers but follows. 

Richie Hebner is there, trying to light something with a lighter that can only seem to throw off sparks. He glances at me.

“Hey, pudlips,” he says. “You pack flame?”

I shake my head. He starts trying the lighter again. In the flashes from the sparks I catch glimpses of the room. It’s the size of the kind of basement I never had, the warm and compact all-American sunken playroom of television-show families. Our basement was always a dark, scary place, one of the parts of my family’s attempt to build a new pure life in the country that remained forever unfinished.

Jupiter takes a seat next to me, leaning his body into mine. I can feel the warmth and weight of him.

Richie Hebner finally gets his lighter to work. For a long time the flame lights up his face and his small silver baseball-bat-shaped one-hitter. It also lights up the room. The walls have been painted like the stands of a baseball stadium during a game, everywhere the blurred shapes and colors of a crowd.

I glimpse a man in the corner in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, looking as if he has just thrown a pitch. His name is written in black letters beneath him.

Bob Moose.

He has a wad of tobacco in his mouth. It’s a moment of pure life, the beat between something and something. Will the pitch be a strike or a screamer through the box? Will the pitch sail past the catcher and roll to the backstop? Will the fielders then walk to the dugout, the season gone, the regal rightfielder moving particularly slow, as if he knows it’s his last time? Anything can happen until it can’t.

The flame of Richie Hebner’s lighter goes out. It’s dark for a while. I feel Jupiter against me and hear him panting. Richie Hebner makes some choking sounds with his throat and then coughs and coughs.

“I knew him,” he says, his voice hoarse. I can’t see anything. “We were teammates.”

What’s going to happen to him? I try to say.

It’s the fall of 1976, winter on the way. Bob Moose, who four years earlier threw a wild pitch that made Roberto Clemente’s last on-field moment a loss, wrecks his car. It’s the fall of 1976, winter on the way. Bob Moose is twenty-nine. He wrecks his car and ends.

What’s going to happen to him? I try to say.

“Man, I’m lit,” Richie Hebner says, still hoarse. There seems to be a chuckle in his voice. The room has grown a little brighter. Richie Hebner isn’t chuckling or smiling. But he is glowing, just a little, like a glow-in-the-dark frisbee. I use his light to find Bob Moose again. Bob Moose is still frozen in the in-between moment, the middle of a heartbeat. 

“He was just a month and a half older than me,” Richie Hebner says. “We were champions.”

What about now? I try to say. I hold onto Jupiter. What’s going to happen to him now?

Richie Hebner just stares at me. Then he turns and walks toward a dugout that has been painted onto the wall below the blurry colors of the crowd. Somehow he walks into the dugout, then through a door to what must be the clubhouse, taking the light with him. I find Jupiter’s collar and hold onto it. In dreams you sometimes find out that you’ve always known how to fly. I find out I can talk to Jupiter, that I have always been able to talk to Jupiter. I don’t even have to use words. I tell him I don’t want to stay here with Bob Moose. I don’t want to stay here in between something and something.

Jupiter stands and starts moving. I keep my hand on his collar. I shuffle along and hold one hand out to feel for a wall but the wall never comes. We descend concrete steps. It must be the dugout. We pass through a doorway into a hallway, Richie Hebner walking a few feet ahead and glowing like a glow-in-the-dark frisbee. There is faraway music now, echoing, the rippling sun-water sounds of the start of Wouldn’t It Be Nice? I let go of Jupiter’s collar. He stays with me. We’re spiraling again, the curve in the hallway opening to a new and growing brightness that the gravedigger walks toward and we follow and he seems to join the light and Wouldn’t It be Nice? and we follow.

(to be continued)

40 comments

  1. 1.  One of the things in life that I always remember from being a kid is when Donnie Moore shot himself in the head one morning in Anaheim Hills. A few years earlier he had given up that homer to Boston and he just couldn’t live with that apparently. It is strange, but I remember him doing that the same way when we all heard the “Challenger” had blown up. I don’t know why, but hearing and reading about Moore killing himself had a huge impact on me for some reason. A schoolyard of kids I think that day played their plastic bat and tennis ball baseball game a bit differently.

    Dang man, you are making me miss my long gone dogs, Ralph and Lulee, and my cool black cat Slick. I watched them all take their last breathes and then buried them in my backyard.


  2. 2.  This is a treat.


  3. 3.  1 Thanks for that somber memory, wireroom. I can’t really recall the moment I heard about Donnie Moore, but I do remember it complicating my memory of the Hendu homer (the greatest pre-2004 baseball moment of my life).

    A few months ago I read a good book about the 1986 playoffs (NL, AL, and World Series) called One Pitch Away that gets into the Donnie Moore story. He had a lot of demons (he tried to kill his wife before turning the gun on himself), and while the fallout from the Hendu pitch didn’t help, I guess it’s not really accurate to say that he killed himself because of it.


  4. 4.  3 I just brought up the Donnie Moore thing because that is my memory of a baseball player who I knew from a close distance who died prematurely. I didn’t mean to rain on your second favorite memory. In the papers around here, when that happened, they portrayed it as the pressure from giving up that bomb as well as the drugs etc., that pushed him to that bizarre act.

    That year in the baseball playoffs certainly did have a lot of strange and tragic things happen to create the final climax.


  5. 5.  4 : Aw, you didn’t rain on my parade. The complicating of the Hendu moment happened a long time ago, and anyway the Hendu moment took its biggest hit a couple weeks after it happened, when other events of which I care not to speak occurred. Back in 1987 a college buddy of mine tried to keep the Hendu moment pure by watching 9-10ths and only 9-10ths of the 1986 Red Sox season-in-review video repeatedly until he convinced himself that, as in 1904, there was no World Series that year. (He augmented these efforts by inhaling prodigious amounts of marijuana.)


  6. 6.  5 I can certainly understand your buddy needing that reassurance. Sometimes you just need to blaze one up, and watch your favorite highlights and not worry about what came before or after. Fortunately, I have Vin Scully cued up for those times.

    Great writing, it certainly brought me back to some strange memories and times in my life.


  7. 7.  5 …when other events of which I care not to speak occurred.

    I hope you didn’t watch Sportcenter last night.


  8. 8.  Awesome stuff. I can relate with this Tom character. I had a very similar childhood. Marijuana everywhere, Ship of Fools playin the background while I ran around raising hell. Sensitive hippie step dads. You struck a chord to say the least Josh. Love your work.


  9. 9.  7 : I don’t know what happened on Sportscenter last night, but my policy has always been to switch channels whenever the pear-shaped image of late career, away-uniform-clad Bob Stanley in mid-windup appears. But then again, as the photo in the “about the author” link on the sidebar says, All Is Forgiven.

    8 : No Ship of Fools in our house (Wake of the Flood?), but plenty of Workingman’s Dead.

    There’s a good story from rangers1994 (plus some further Japanese literature recommendations) at the tail end of the Richie Hebner post. Also, LouV has added some interesting thoughts and memories of Bobby Bonds and Bobby Murcer in the comments attached to the Bobby Bonds post (see link for it under “Behold the Unsortable” in the sidebar.)


  10. 10.  Being from Long Beach and all, I loved the Jeff Burroughs piece as well. My sister played softball with his daughter Shaelin for a few years. Awesome guy, just wish Sean had his power.


  11. 11.  9 Grateful Dead From the Mars Hotel 1974. American Beauty is awesome as well.


  12. 12.  Oh man, we should start the Hippie Parents Club around here. The only kind of people where your uncle can marry your dads ex-wife and they all can still share a j.


  13. 13.  And our house choice of Dead material to listen to was Dead/Live. In my own dads words, “Jerry really plays a motherfucker of solo in Dark Star!”


  14. 14.  The boys are all blazing on Live/Dead. My favorite from that album might have to be The Eleven.


  15. 15.  Yes! I always loved The Eleven. It has this kind of maniac intensity — they just build and build and then they take off like a rocket-sled down a steep hill.

    And Workingman’s Dead, there’s a damned fine record.

    Even if this current story line goes the way I think it will, it will still have been well worth reading.


  16. 16.  Have you ever noticed how the Google ads change every time you reload this page? First I had “Derek Jeter Workout” and “Vietnamese Brides”, and now it’s “Mike Piazza at Beliefnet” and “Johan Santana Workout”.

    I can’t figure out the Vietnamese Brides part.

    I loved “Tree of Smoke”, by the way.


  17. 17.  oy josh don’t get me going on The Dead…as i’m as big a head as you’ll find. i’ve got shitloads of hour of their stuff on my iTunes. Live/Dead was the very first vinyl i bought way back in 69. i was living on the Alameda Naval Air Station in Oakland and bought it at the PX. i was just 14 years old and had never heard of the grateful dead…i just liked the cover. ended up loving the album but had no idea the band was playing live right across the bay from me! i played that LP until it warped, crackled and popped…hundreds of hours of air guitar!! LOL rgds, will


  18. 18.  My parents must be just a bit older, or got out of the psychedelic/hippie phase faster. I grew up with a lot of Cream, Moby Grape, Ultimate Spinach, etc. Then my father made the transition into Steely Dan, completely skipping over the early 70′s stuff.

    I knew the gravedigger bit, but this post also made me wonder if Hebner had died at some point, and I just missed it. I shoulda paid more attention in that film class.


  19. 19.  16 : The recent Vietnam War subject matter on this site seems to have coaxed an unusual new element out of the Google ads. Earlier today I saw an ad for something called “War Ringtones.”

    18 : Fear not, (as far as I know) Richie Hebner endures.


  20. 20.  I’m actually copyediting a novel right now about a guy at prep school who lives his life following the spirit of the Dead and their songs. As I work at my desk, Jerry Bear sits at the corner, reflective as always. And I can’t help but think of Josh at boarding school, about to get kicked out.

    I saw Phil recently, just sitting on a bench on West 55th St., waiting for his wife to join him for dinner.

    Bob, Phil, and Mickey recently reunited to play a gig in support of Barack Obama, but it ain’t the same without JG…


  21. 21.  20 : Arrgh, yet another novel I coulda and shoulda and didn’t.

    I once accosted Phil as he was rapidly exiting my workplace at the time, Coliseum Books (recently mentioned in the Tom Seaver post comments by ramblin pete). I mumbled and sputtered my thanks for all the years of great music. (His fairly recent book, Searching for the Sound, is a very enjoyable read.)

    Nothing’s the same without Jerry, but then again Jerry wasn’t really the same near the end either, and the band had a lot of renewed energy and curiousity in his irreplaceable wake. If Barack somehow inspires The Dead to tour again I’m there (especially if Warren Haynes is on board).


  22. 22.  Just for the record, I AM a member of the Hippie Parents Club, but that was before I was a parent, so I’m not sure if that counts. But I did listen to “Playin’ In The Band” as I was getting up this morning.

    But back on topic… Josh, your writing is astoundingly good. I was telling my wife last night about this latest episode about following Richie Hebner into the grave and down down the spiral, and she insisted that I fire up the computer and let her read it. She said, “Who is this baseball card guy?” She’s going to use it in a creative writing class she’ll be teaching.


  23. 23.  18 I am probably one of the biggest Steely Dan fans in the world. I saw Donald Fagen at the Wiltern l. I heard they were insane at NO Jazz and Blues last year.


  24. 24.  at the wiltern a while back.


  25. 25.  Updating a piece of info I referenced during the Vietnam/Iraq “Born in the USA” posts (see post on Al Bumbry), it now seems that neither of the two female suicide bombers who recently blew up a market in Iraq had Down syndrome:

    http://tinyurl.com/2g36r5

    I’m becoming convinced that it’s impossible to say anything definitive about anything having to do with war (except maybe the ol’ rhetorical stand-by “What is it good for?”). There was a good episode of Frontline last night about a controversial incident in Haditha that further convinced me. One marine accused of killing innocent people described his actions on the day in question as actions that would have fit into a John Wayne script, which seemed hard to believe. On the other side, there was an interview somewhat after the fact of a boy claiming that “Americans shot his father while he was reading the Koran” that smacked to me (namely the “reading the Koran” part) of scripted propaganda.

    No wonder I spend most of my time wondering what the Red Sox are going to do with Coco Crisp…

    22 : Thanks TopCat. Much appreciated.

    23 : I think rangers1994 is a big Steely Dan guy, too. I have yet to see the light with them (not that I have anything against them).


  26. 26.  9 Let’s just say that Hank Aaron’s 715th HR is not the only highlight in which Bill Buckner appears in ESPN stupid top highlight feature.

    23 Three degrees of separation. My daughter’s classmate’s (8-11 years ago) father played with the Dan on an Asian tour and had a couple jazz albums produced by Walter Becker. (Or is that four?)

    25 Is it rhetorical? “Absolutely nothing. Say it again!” Isn’t the most definitive statement on that topic still “war is hell”?

    My parents were not hippies. By 1967 they were too old to be trusted.


  27. 27.  My dad stopped listening to new music after Buddy Holly.

    Josh, I’ve been to the Colisseum a couple of times. Some of the guys from Baseball Prospectus showed up; as did the legendary Repoz from Primer. But this was most likely after your tour of duty there.


  28. 28.  26 Man that’s awesome. I met a guy who was a studio guitarist/musician in the 70′s and 80′s and played with The Dan, Bruce Hornsby, the Doobs to name a few. One of the great characters I’ve met in my 24 years.


  29. 29.  14 15 Yes, The Eleven just sounds amazing in that captured recording. Like they are flying. (which they surely were)

    My old man actually played in a band in the 60′s and opened up for the Dead a bunch of times and did the Fillmore with them a few times. I wish there was a way I could find the tapes, if there are any, of those shows he played with them. If anybody knows how to get some live Dead recordings from 1969, let me know.


  30. 30.  22 Your kids are lucky to wake up with jams like that every morning.


  31. 31.  27 : I wonder if you were at the original 57th Street location or the later location on 42nd Street across from Bryant Park. I worked at the former until it closed. (The latter location shut down too, sometime last year I think.)

    29 : Wow, what was the name of your old man’s band? As for Dead stuff, there’s certainly no shortage of recordings from those days. I imagine the tape-trading scene remains thriving today, and is probably aided by the internet, but I don’t know much about it. You might try poking around this site for some streaming audio and downloads, though:

    http://www.archive.org/details/GratefulDead

    I’m enjoying the meandering discussion here. I hoped to get another chapter up today, but it probably won’t be until tomorrow…


  32. 32.  It was the latter, Josh. This was only 2 or 3 years ago.


  33. 33.  28 That sounds like Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, pretty well-known dude.

    I did get to play once with my guy at a school event. I am a rudimentary hack, but he was, of course, awesome, sitting in with zero rehearsal. It’s amazing to watch someone that good up close and contributing in even the smallest way, maybe like being a ballboy in the dugout and watching Pedro Martinez (or even an average MLB pitcher) pitch.


  34. 34.  31 They were called The Glass Family and recorded a few records on Warner Bros. which had the Dead on their label for a while too, I believe. That is how they ended up doing a bunch of Dead shows. They never made it big, but they did get all of the good times from those times.

    I have always wanted to find those nights on recording to give to him as a gift or something. He refers to those nights as the most magical and insane ever in his life. Thanks for the link and the ideas. I should really search it out and see if someone has those exact dates from 1969 because I know that from a certain point on, every show the Dead played was recorded off of the soundboard.

    Looking forward to the next chapter!


  35. 35.  Sorry if that was confusing, I answered with my other baseball toaster screen name.


  36. 36.  34 : There are few things that would intrigue me more than a now unknown psychedelic band named (I’m guessing) after one of my favorite author’s (J.D. Salinger) fictional brood. I did a quick search to learn more and came up with this description:

    http://tinyurl.com/34kvkd

    Now I want to hear the album! It kinda sounds like another great unsung psychedelic album by an L.A. band of that era, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Volume II.


  37. 37.  Yeah when I asked him once about the band name being after the Salinger Glass Family, his response was, “Yeah that probably was what it was. We combined it with the fact that we lived in a house literally made of glass bottles in Topanga Canyon.”

    That is a cool description from that link and I should forward that to him. Thanks man, I appreciate that! He is the guy with no shirt and the huge mustache holding a doll. They pop up on comp albums every few years and things like that. It is cool, but they still get together to play every few weeks these days, sans the original drummer who sadly let the drugs get the better of him.

    My dad was always frustrated by the label release and mix of the full length. He felt they used takes that were done to mix as “psych pop” instead of going with the versions that he liked. I would send you a cd of some sort of it, no problem man. My email address is iancapilouto@yahoo.com. Send me your address and I will see what I can do.


  38. 38.  33 Definitely not Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

    Strawberry Alarm Clock at the Malibu Inn in June was pretty amazing.


  39. 39.  Hey, Ian:
    The listings for 1969 shows at http://www.deadlists.com specifically mention the Glass Family playing at one show (6/8/69) and imply they opened for the Dead for the entire run (6/5 through 6/8.)
    Go to the left side of the page, select 1969 and click “see all shows from 1969″ for the listings.

    As Wilker suggests, archive.org is one place to look for recordings.
    bt.etree.org usually has a fair amount of Dead too, though you have to have BitTorrent to get hold of anything.

    Best of luck.
    (I had the pleasant experience a couple years ago of downloading a Miles Davis show my dad attended in 1969 and playing it for him again. Not quite the same thing but still kinda cool.)


  40. Hippie Parents Club? Wow, my experience was totally different. My dad was drafted and fought in heavy combat on the Mekong Delta. He was a boxer and an ironworker for 30 years and came back to be the most scary person I ever met in my life. Although he never talked about it except when extremely drunk or stoned, he once mentioned that the guys sometimes used to tie Viet Cong corpses to the back of jeeps or whatever and drag them through villages.

    In other words, there was no room for Jerry Garcia in my childhood.



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