The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

Let’s get the worst out of the way, first. I went to the track yesterday, a last chance for foolishness at Fairmount’s “horse hookey,” the last matinee racing before the start of the school year. At this point in my personal education, I know enough to get myself in trouble at a horse track. There’s something about the same horses, the same riders, the same ticket takers, the same beer vendors, the same scenes played out over an entire summer that make you think you’ve got it figured it. But you don’t. That’s the worst place to be, in the realm of half-knowledge. That nebulous place in which you feel you can work some kinda angle, but you can’t.

You’re a sucker. And when you can’t afford to lose $30 and you lose $30, at least you know you’re a sucker.

At that point, you need a pick-me-up.

And, as sports go, on any level, you can hook into the crushing lows and jubilant highs.They come and they go.

Yesterday afternoon, still mulling over those failed straight exactas and boxed trifectas, the word came in and the word was good.

All four kids that I coached last fall, now heading into their freshman years of high school and trying out for their respective soccer teams, made said teams. Four-f0r-four and I couldn’t be happier!

Three cheers to all these lads, who I’ll be following this fall:

Kyle Davis, Dubourg

Jordan Griffin, Saint Louis University High

Sean Groh, Gateway Tech

Dashawn Wilson, St. Mary’s

My high school experience was marred by moments that went the other way, by sheets of paper posted to a wall without my name. And I don’t, for a second, assume that these kids (and the boys that didn’t try out for teams this fall, but spent countless hours on South Side soccer fields over the last seven years with me) have it made, now that they’ve simply cracked a roster. But I always wanted them to have a chance at some successes in high school. I’m happy, satisfied, pleased as punch to have played a bit of a role in these cats improving their games over the years. And all did, noticeably.

I might be banning myself from pro sports for the time being, but I’m suddenly a local prep fan. Gotta fill those late-afternoon hours somehow, and living vicariously is a healthy and affordable way to go.

August’s 13

By popular request of one (Jim Utz, looking at you, bub), here’s the return of The 13, after a three-month summer break. Speaking of which, 11 days ’til school begins, so…

Outings, Fairmount Park: This Tuesday. Racing starts at 1. Ends around 4. Pubs nearby are kicking by 5. Methinks all interested parties should book a date for the afternoon and/or should simply reunite on the Illside. Feeling like an eight-race day, myself. You know, ’cause school’s starting.

Publications, Yeti: Not as sharp as I used to be, on many levels. Including the ability to track publications that seem just right there. Still, it’s a bit of a shocker to scroll through Amazon and find a long run of a zine/CD series that’s exactly in the ol’ personal interest wheelhouse. Yeti. Have you read it? Heard it? And you’ve still not told me, after all this time we’ve known one another. Shame on you.

Drinks, Drank: I wouldn’t say that Drank exactly slowed my roll. In fact, I’d say that I woke up a few hours later with chest pains. Obviously, your results may vary. Enjoy!

Old guy clothes, Urban Pipeline cargoes: Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the perfect pair of pants.

Reunions, Enormous Richard: There’s something about traveling to Granite City with good company, piling into a jammed-up neighborhood tavern and having a band that helped define your early-20s crank up the quirky rock, some five years after their last reuniting-type-experience. Thanks, Enormous Richard. You’re pals, every one of you, seriously.

Books, The Beats: A Graphic History: A big fan, I am, of the Popular Reading shelf, just inside the doorway of Webster’s Emerson Library. Most of my summer reading came from those shelves and this title, read just before the passing of co-author/writer/editor Harvey Pekar, helped pass some enjoyable, instructional hours. Even when the stories are ones that you’ve read a dozen times before, the illustrations and general spirit of this book are winners. Pick it up at your local library, okay?

Documentaries, You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk, 1977-1984: Speaking about some hours well-spent, this doc (which covers exactly what the title specifcially suggests) is a two-plus-hour exhumation of a vibrant, underground scene. Great live footage, relevant contemporary interviews, a bit of inter-band hatred still simmering and, for a week, a free showing on Pitchfork’s TV channel. Well worth finding.

Reality shows, Jersey Shore: Confessing. Admitting it right here. Yup. Watched 75% of the first season. Thought it mindless fun, then. Didn’t exactly await season two and caught the first two Miami episodes back-to-back, just this week. Findings? It was more enjoyable when the fools didn’t have fame. It was more watchable when it was shot as a straight-up reality show, instead of an exercise in fast-cut editing and camera trickery. The charm of the idiocy is now lost.

Vegetables, okra: What a delight to grow (cool, five-sectioned leaves; heh-heh!) and eat (they work with anything). Nothing to not like here. Three cheers for okra. Keep kickin’, plant.

Bars, Daddy’s Money: When you take over the old On Broadway Bistro and Car Wash, then mix Granite City tough with North City tough, offer cheap drinks and late hours, some pool tables and a hip-hop-meets-classic-rock jukebox, you’ve got… this weird little mess. But an enjoyable little mess, indeed. On the right night, with the right crew and in the right head, this is just the 3 a.m. stop you need. Say no to wack South Side late nighters, say yes to Daddy’s Money.

Fighters, Jamie “The Chosyn 1” Yager: Now that I’ve officially renounced sports (bending, bending… but not yet broken), there’s gotta be one exception that allows for some healthy steam to be blown off. Hello, MMA. So, I’ve gotta have a favorite fighter. And though I don’t think Jamie Yager’s got a long career on the way, he’s got the look, the talk, the nickname and all the other requisites to make him an amusing anti-hero in the short-term. Hope he fights in the Midwest, sometime, it’d be fun to see.

Not this Halloween, Munster Mansion: It’s never to early to plan for Halloween. Unfortunately, this year, you will not be able to visit the replica house of Munster Mansion. The 10-year-old version of me would be beside himself at this news, while I’m merely crestfallen.

Video, “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty: Never knew the name of this song. ‘Til this week. Now, it’s firmly rooted.