Ron Schueler (4)

January 22, 2008


Act IV

(continued from Ron Schueler (3)

I first started writing about my baseball cards years ago, as my time as an adjunct was coming to a close. My teaching in those last few months had dwindled from a couple classes per semester to a single one-on-one tutorial with a pale, sunken-eyed Vietnam War veteran suffering from acute insomnia stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder. By then I’d run out of money and had begun racking up credit card debt to pay for essentials. I’d been spending the year living in a drafty cabin in the woods with no electricity and no running water and a small leaky woodstove that combined with my pile of green wood to give off about as much heat as a toaster oven. In the middle of the winter I’d almost burned the cabin down with a chimney fire, and soon after that had given away my cat Alice, who I loved deeply, because I decided she deserved better than to spend her golden years shivering or on fire beside a penniless idiot. I wrote something every day, one way or another, even if it was so cold in the cabin I had to wear my fire-damaged gloves. Most of the writing was an ongoing attempt at a novel that never found a heartbeat. As the useless pages piled up I began to sort of lose it. By “it” I mean hope, sanity, what have you. So just for something to do to keep from going crazy or to pass the time I started picking cards at random and writing about them in my journal by the dim light of a propane lantern. Over this past weekend I tried to find those descriptions, but wading through the dense thicket of failure in the journals from those years proved impossible. It took about two minutes of searching through one page after another of airless desperation before I shut down like a fried computer. But I know that one of the first cards I wrote about was this Ron Schueler card. I’m pretty sure I noted his big White Sox collar, and maybe I noted the partially hidden billboard behind him seeming to advertise Brut cologne. I do know I interpreted his gaze as a reflection of my own souring expectations, that existential dyspepsia that seems to say I thought things were going to turn out differently somehow.

Now it’s been long enough since then that I see that things, at least for me (I can’t speak for Ron Schueler) turned out exactly as they should have. And not only that, they weren’t half bad. There were stories. There were songs. There were even plenty of times when I really liked teaching. (I hope I can do it again someday.) I remember a lot of nervous sweat and stammering coming from me, and a lot of blank stares coming from my students, but I also remember some days when it actually felt like I had a job that wasn’t just dumb labor for once in my life. I talked about Jack Kerouac and Denis Johnson and Blade Runner and D. Boon and Muhammad Ali and whatever else came to mind, every subject somehow relating, or intended to relate, to how much I loved writing, even how much I loved life, how much I wanted the students to get excited about something, anything, and try to put it into words. Sometimes I think some of it even came across.

As for the rest of it, the cabin and the loss of Alice and the stillborn novel and the (eventual champion) fantasy team Desolation Angels, plus a lot of other things I guess I’ll get around to mentioning some other time (such as the brief interval when I shared a house with a guy who was convinced the local health food restaurant was trying to poison him, or the brief doomed fling I had, or the deer I killed, or how spring felt at that cabin when the long cold winter finally ended): I guess I’ll just say it was all a web of songs. I imagine Ron Schueler as the silent center of those songs. Even now, so many years later, new songs bloom from that Schuelerian silence. Yesterday I woke up with lyrics for the opening number of the Broadway musical Adjunct! in my head, the introduction to the main character song. Actually all I had is one line, the first line below, but I stumbled to my notebook (where else in this life is there to go?) and jotted down a bunch of possible accompanying lines:  

I’m just a margin on a page
I’m just an extra at the back of the stage
I’m too demoralized to fly into a rage
I don’t act young but I don’t act my age
My empty apartment sometimes feels like a cage

Something like that. The curtain rises, the song begins. Off-key, ridiculous. Then, as it is in life, song gives way to song. Here’s to all of it, the web of song, the silence beneath, the whole bleating indispensable mess. May the curtain never come down.

(continued, sort of, in Adjunct!: Wrap Party)


  1. 1.  That was really good, Josh. I’ve had some marginal jobs during my life, but I was able to live at home during those times.

    I just noticed that Schueler’s pic was taken at Yankee Stadium. From that info, we may be able to extrapolate what the billboard was.

  2. 2.  I have cracked and bruised ribs from a sweet fall I had on some ice over the weekend. Anyway, for a brief moment after it happened, I thought is this how it ends? Me, dying of exposure on a hiking trail in the mountains instead of writing some great stories and finally recording a great record, the one I wanted to record? After about ten minutes I got myself up and walked back the 2 miles or so to the car. It wasn’t really that treacherous of a walk back, but for a second it makes you think when you hurt yourself like that
    Your writing’s about baseball cards are great man. Don’t undervalue the philosophy that you are espousing with it. What a great, unique idea you came up with. One day I hope I can find something with a heartbeat to write about. I guess life works in mysterious, subtle and chaotic ways. Thanks for the great reads.

  3. 3.  1 : “I just noticed that Schueler’s pic was taken at Yankee Stadium.”

    Interesting. Very strange also, given that Schueler had come to the White Sox in the offseason. When could the picture have been taken? (It appears to not be a doctored photo.) I’ve always assumed all the Topps cards for a given year were ready to go at the beginning of the season, but maybe they prepared some on the fly and released them midseason.

    Brian Downing’s White Sox card from the same year is taken in front of the very same backdrop; he even obscures the same section of the billboard in question, leaving only “BR” showing.

  4. 4.  Great series, Josh. Thanks.

    By the way, your boarding school co-expellee Allen “Happy Al” Raymond, whom you wrote about in your “Happy” series last April, just came out with a book called “How to Rig an Election”. Amazon listing is here: http://tinyurl.com/yr4s7g. Interview with Jon Stewart here: http://tinyurl.com/24v4td. It’s good that he’s revealing some of the sleaze that goes on, but he still seems like a smug jerk.

  5. 5.  2 read’s.

  6. 6.  2 : Thanks a lot for the praise, wireroom. Hope those ribs heal soon!

    4 : O man, much thanks Basilisc. I hadn’t heard about Happy Al’s book.

  7. 7.  6 Yeah, they will heal after a while. I got some vicodin for it but I can’t take that stuff without getting sick. It was my douchebag fault for hiking in tennis shoes.
    I look forward to the next Cardboard God to speak.

  8. 8.  6 Yeah, they will heal after a while. I got some vicodin for it but I can’t take that stuff without getting sick. It was my douchebag fault for hiking in tennis shoes.
    I look forward to hearing the next Cardboard God speak.

  9. 9.  4 : The Amazon page has an excerpt from the book that makes me a little queasy.

    If anyone’s interested, the “Happy” series Basilisc mentions is at the following locations, in order:

    Bob Welch

    Hal McRae

    Steve Braun and Steve Brye

    Ron Leflore

    Pete Rose

  10. 10.  Gazeless, Eternal Ron was on the Twins in 1977, when this picture was taken for the 1978 series. Being the silly Yankee nut I am, and just an observer of baseball card backgrounds in general (see my post sometime about the American League card shots taken while the Yankees played at Shea in 74-75), this is simply a Topps brush job.

    Topps being Topps, it is suprisingly good, but look closely, that SOX a bit more closely, it just is a bit odd looking. I have the original card too, but won’t dig it out, but I do know it isn’t him in a SOX uniform. Josh, we need a post someday of the worse brush job ever- I nominate the 1976 Ocscar Gamble “Traded” card- God, that may be the worst ever, though the Rudy May brush jobs you described one time are pretty horrific too.

    Also, being a Yankee fan of that 70’s vintage, I can tell you for certain, that the big billboard behind him is in fact BRUT, by Faberge, haha. This pic was taken in 1977. If you are a fan of the great series, The Bronx is Burning, shown this past summer on ESPN, they did it right, with the ad’s they simulated during the scenes in “Yankee Stadium”(or their simulated Yankee Stadium, being historically correct. The ad’s have generally changed year after year, so I have a pretty good clue about what was up what year, besides having a bunch of yearbooks and programs with shots from that era.

    In 1976, when the Stadium re-opened after renovation, I believe that BRUT sign was a Marlboro cigarette sign.

  11. 11.  10 : Thanks for confirming the “Brut . . . by Faberge” theory, RA. And though I didn’t see it myself (the inimitable collar clinched the reality of the card for me), I’ll go along with you on the card-doctoring theory, too; it would explain the “presence” of the Twin in a White Sox uniform in Yankee Stadium.

  12. 12.  I just simply enjoy reading about your observations and your life experiences. I would think there is a novel somewhere in here, but I just don’t have the ability to put that together. I am sure it will come for you. In the meantime I am going to just enjoy coming here and reading whatever you are writing.

  13. 13.  Great stuff as always Josh. I noticed your mention of D. Boon. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but IFC has been running a pretty cool documentary on the Minutemen. Mike Watt can be draining at times, but the old footage is great. It’s called We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen. I think its out on DVD.

  14. 14.  13 : Yeah, I saw We Jam Econo when it came out on DVD last year sometime. I liked it, but I can hardly remember anything about it, due to the fact that my memory is shot. Watt is also far and away the star of the great Minutemen chapter in the book Our Band Could Be Your Life. I interviewed him once for an article in The New York Resident (a free weekly paper) and, whoo, the man can spiel. (I was happy to hear every word of it.)

    I just realized I misspelled friggin’ Ron Schueler’s name again (don’t bother looking because I’m about to fix it). I am so sick of Ron Scheuler/Schueler!

  15. 15.  Very cool. Michael Azzerad did a great job on that book…as well as his comprehensive book on the early history of Nirvana. And you’re right…Watt is the star of that chapter by far.

  16. 16.  10 Josh has already written about the card that would be my worst brush job nominee. I couldn’t believe that card when I first saw it emerge from the wax pack.


  17. 17.  13 & 14 I wonder what Ed fROMOHIO is doing these days?

  18. I have not yet had the pleasure of watching “The Bronx is Burning,” though I still can recall the summer in question vividly, with acute childhood memories. NYC ’77 seems to yield fertile quasi-romantic fodder for the likes of the series’ directors, as well as Spike Lee (Summer of Sam), and numerous other auteurs, all of whom accurately reference the Yanks as being, somehow, in the center of the whole socio-political cauldron at the time.

    I was just thinking, wouldn’t it be fascinating if the late-70’s Mets, in all their declining irrelevance, were so documented?

    “Queens is Disappearing.”

    I envision a vastly reduced operating budget, direct-to-home-video, or late night airings on the most obscurely buried of cable outlets… tacky stock footage of La Guardia airport, little to no action, cliched dialogue, and poory lit sets.

    Geez, who would play Elliot Maddox?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: