Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads named a Best Book by Creative Loafing Tampa



Super excited to announce that Curveball at the Crossroads was named one of the three best books by a local author in the last 12 months in Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay 2021.

That's huge. Not only is Creative Loafing Tampa read by thousands of people in the Tampa Bay area, but it also has a large online presence.


I definitely want to thank everyone who voted for Curveball at the Crossroads. Thank you!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Remembering Florida Wrestler Norman Wright

 

Farewell to Norm, standing far right

These posts never get easier. But even if someone passes through my life on few occasions, I still like to write about those memorable moments. I feel it is a great way to pay tribute.

Way back when I first moved to Tampa, I attended Florida Championship Wrestling. FCW was the training ground of WWE and, as I have written often, it was a family-like atmosphere with a great fanbase. It was where I started rocking my now famous afro wig and joined the famous (maybe infamous?) Afro-Squad.

It was also where I met Norman Wright. Norm was a local wrestling fan with eyes on joining the wrestling business. Norm was a good dude, a nice guy, who always said hello and was a pleasure to be around.

If I am not mistaken, Norm trained with FCW for a bit as well, learning the ins and outs of wrestling. After finishing with the WWE's affiliated school, he then set a sail into the Florida independent wrestling scene, where breaking in is tough and networking is tougher.

But Norm made it, and in 2011, he wrestled several matches in All-Star Wrestling under the name "Roman Wright". I was a regular at ASW shows and saw Roman in the ring quite often. Roman was a tough guy who battled well in the ring, although he drew the ire of fans with his attitude and demeanor. Roman was opposite of Norm, who was a friend to anyone in the crowd.

While that was the extent of my time seeing Norm wrestle, it was a few other times I saw him around town that I will always remember. In 2019, I saw him at the now-closed Franklin Manor nightclub in downtown Tampa. He was hanging out with a few ladies and enjoying himself. We caught up and he told me he was working at another nightclub. It had been years since we talked, but we caught up like old friends.

But my greatest memory of Norm was in October 2008. October 19th, 2008 to be exact. The day the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays played Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Being new to South Tampa, I was looking for a place to watch the game. I discovered the Press Box, one of Tampa's oldest sports bars. It was packed for the big game and there was not a table to be found. Fortunately, I spotted Norm sitting at the bar with a friend. Although I had only met him a few months earlier at the FCW shows, he waved me over to join them. The whole night was electric was the Rays won and made their first World Series in franchise history. I will forever be appreciative of Norm for finding me a spot in the crowded sports bar and letting me hang with him and his friend.

Farewell, Norm. You were a good dude gone too soon.




Friday, September 3, 2021

Selwyn Birchwood concert at Skippers Smokehouse, Tampa FL


It has been a while since I reviewed a concert on this website. I used write about all the concerts I went to. Over the last few years, I haven't done that as often. Admittedly, COVID-19 shut down the live music scene around the world and there wasn't much to write about, but even before then I wasn't documenting as I was years ago. So excuse me if I am a bit rusty.

I am relatively new to the work of Selwyn Birchwood. Although I read his name in articles and saw it on marques for much of the last 10 years, I never took the time to look him up until I saw his song "Guilty Pleasures" on YouTube. I am a blues stickler/purist and I was super impressed. He had soul, he had a groove, and he nailed the blues.

A few months later, during the pandemic, I saw Selwyn in the background in a large blues tribute show video. I think it might be the BB King Tribute in the Capital Theater, but I am not sure and the videos for that show aren't complete. Regardless of where it was, I said to myself that I better get his music before he gets super huge and too expensive to see live.

In 2020, Selwyn put out a new album, Living in a Burning House. The album contains a song called "Freaks Come Out at Night" (no, not a Whodini cover). The video for this song was filmed at the Bradfordville Blues Club, outside of Tallahassee - one of America's last remaining juke joints and one of my favorite places to see live music anywhere. If I wasn't a fan of Selwyn Birchwood before, I was definitely a fan at that point.

I finally had a chance to see Selwyn live in May 2021 at the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center in Safety Harbor, Florida. The Art & Music Center is an interesting place and the crowd was a bit subdued for my taste, sitting throughout the concert and applauding only between songs. I prefer a more active crowd.

And that is what I got at Skipper's Smokehouse.

I arrived with a few friends a few songs into Selwyn's show. Oddly, there was no opening act on the bill, only the headliner. Although I wasn't disappointed, I found the lack of opening act interesting and kinda unique. It is rare to not see an opener.

But no opener leaves more time for the headliner and that was who I was here to see.

Selwyn Birchwood and his band rocked for over 3 hours. They played a lot of his new album "Living in a Burning House", which was a lot like the time I saw him in Safety Harbor months ago, but this time he mixed in several of his older songs, such as "Guilty Pleasures" and "Hoodoo Stew".

All night long, the dance floor at Skipper's was filled with people rocking and grooving to Selwyn and his band. He is one of the few blues acts to incorporate a saxophone and it definitely makes his sound more layered and unique. Selwyn also plays a happier type of blues. Instead of wallowing in the sad things in life, his music tends to be more upbeat and celebrating positive ends through the negative.

While creating his own sound, Selwyn Birchwood did some classic blues impersonations, both in voice and in riff, covering some Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. But like he said, the reason he doesn't play like them is because they are them and he is himself, therefore there is no reason to play like them.

Overall, it was a great show. Three hours of blues, groove, soul, and dancing makes for a great time. Especially on a pleasant Florida summer night. Selwyn Birchwood is the real deal, an entertaining bluesman with a modern sound that calls back to the legends of the genre. He is one of several new artists carrying the blues on to the next generation.

On a social note, my friend's friend who joined us was a young mid-20s Black girl who wasn't used to the blues scene, but wanted to come out for some live music. While she had a great time and did quite a bit of dancing, she mentioned how it was weird how she was a minority in a show performed by a band that was 80% Black doing music her culture invented. There weren't many Black folks in the crowd. I told her my theory on how the blues was stolen from Black people in the 60s and Black culture moved on to R&B, Soul, and eventually Hip-Hop. But from my perspective as a white dude, it was interesting to see and hear her reaction to the music and to the crowd. 

Before I close, however, I want to mention the venue. Skipper's Smokehouse did a lot while closed to clean up and make the concert experience more comfortable. Outside of the always tight parking, Skippers is a great place to see a show. Everything was cleaner, from the bathrooms to the stage to the walls of the venue. 

My one complaint was with the obnoxious older couple who tried to push my friend and her friend off of their seats when they tried to find a place to sit. They got an attitude and the incident almost turned into a mess. But we avoided conflict and spent most of our time on the dance floor directly in front of them, blocking their view and rocking to Selwyn Birchwood.




Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Alexa Bliss replies to criticism

 


I am a pro wrestling purist. I like old school wrestling, where big dudes who looked like the toughest guys in the arena slugged it out for championships. When championships mattered. When wrestlers came from Parts Unknown and belief was able to be suspended.

Pro wrestling is big business these days. Wrestlers are stars who attend award shows and do big interviews.

The problem I have is when they break kayfabe. As wrestlers, they play one role - that of their in-ring persona. They are not actors, playing different roles in different movies. Wrestlers are more like Pee-Wee Herman. They are their performing role for the extent in which they are that role. If they move companies and change roles, names, or characters, then the old character ceases to exist. They don't talk about the old character.

But unfortunately too many wrestlers today are treating their in-ring persona as just a thing they do when the cameras are rolling. Their gimmick is only something they do when they are in a pro wrestling environment, whether it be a ring, a stadium, or an autograph signing. The gimmick is just a job, not a way of life.

Perhaps the worst offender of this new mentality is Lexi Kaufman otherwise known as WWE Superstar Alexa Bliss. For years, Lexi Kaufman has ignored the traditional rules of kayfabe and varied between her real life and wrestling personas. This differentiation has become more obvious when her gimmick became a dark, possessed, demon girl while in real life she likes Disney movies, playing with her dog, and hanging out with her significant other.

All of her real life hobbies would be fine if she broadcasted them under the name Lexi Kaufman. Instead, they are all published under the name Alexa Bliss, the name of a demonic, evil person in the WWE Universe.

Lexi Kaufman has never been one of my favorite pro wrestlers, if she would even call herself that. She probably prefers "sports entertainer", a term invented by WWE.

Recently, Lexi did an interview in which she stated that she would like to get into acting because "she is doing a lot of acting now in WWE". I cringed when I read that. Such a blatant disregard for kayfabe.

So I did what I normally do, and I tweeted my objection to Lexi's comments. Notice however that they are attributed to Alexa Bliss. That purposefully blurring of the line is what makes wrestling unique. Actors don't do interviews as their characters, but wrestlers do interviews in their gimmick. As they should.

But apparently Alexa Bliss wants to get away from her doll holding, creepy wrestling career and get into acting. Or is that Lexi Kaufman's goals? What are Alexa Bliss's goals in the WWE?

My tweet objecting to Lexi's interview was seen by Lexi who replied on her Alexa Bliss twitter account. So who replied to me? Was it Lexi, the Disney-loving athlete-entertainer? Or was it Alexa Bliss, the dark, demonic, doll-carrying wrestler?

Either way, she came back with a heelish reply. And I am ok with that.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Vote Curveball at the Crossroads for Best Book of Tampa Bay


I am super excited to announce that my debut novel Curveball at the Crossroads was nominated for Best Book by a Local Author on the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay contest. Creative Loafing holds this contest every year and winning it is a big deal.

There is some stiff competition for Best Book of Tampa Bay but I am sure I can gather the votes to win. After all, how many of the books on the ballot are about a pitcher going to the crossroads and making a deal with the Devil?

One. Mine.

So please take a moment and vote Curveball at the Crossroads for Best Book by a Local Author. Thank you and I appreciate your support!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads on the LockedOnMLB Podcast



I had the pleasure of talking with my longtime friend Sully on his podcast on the LockedOn network. Comedian, TV producer and creator of the Sully Baseball Podcast Paul Francis "Sully" Sullivan is the host of LockedOnMLB, a podcast that covers all of Major League Baseball. 

Of course, we talked about Curveball at the Crossroads, then we discussed the Tampa Bay Rays, both on the field and off the field statuses.

I highly recommend Sully's podcast. He has a passion for the game and such a wide array of interests - check out how our conversation veered to Star Wars - and amazing knowledge of baseball. 

Here is the link: Locked On MLB - Daily Podcast On Major League Baseball

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads on the Spike on the Mic Show

Spike on the Mic is a longtime radio show in Tampa and Spike has been around the radio scene for years. A few weeks ago, I ran into Spike at a local sports bar and we talked about me being on his show. After weeks of scheduling, I made my first appearance.

Spike on the Mic is a fun show that covers weird and unusual headlines and has humorous banter between a bevy of hosts. I felt right at home talking with them. In the final minutes, I told them about my book, which most of the hosts were excited to hear about.


Thanks again to Spike for having me on and I hope to be on again soon!


Here is the link to the Spike on the Mic Show featuring Curveball at the Crossroads.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads is now available at Mojo Books and Records


I am very happy to announce that Curveball at the Crossroads is now available at Mojo Books and Music in Tampa, Florida. You can find the book in the local authors section and every copy available at Mojo Books and Records is signed by the author (me).

Mojo Books and Records is a perfect first place to sell Curveball at the Crossroads as it is also a used music store. Given the blues music inspirations in Curveball at the Crossroads, that's perfect.

Mojo Books and Music is located at 2540 E Fowler Ave, University Center Shopping Plaza, Tampa, FL 33612-6271.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Funniest Book About The Man Ever

Almost two years ago, I self-published a little joke book that detailed everything The Man did to make lives miserable.

The book didn't do great sales - I blame The Man - but I have been able to share it with a few celebrities to include comic Cristela Alonzo and rapper extraordinaire RA The Rugged Man.

The Man Makes You Work is still available on Amazon for the low price of $7.50 paperback or kindle for $4.95 or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

That's a great deal for a fun, fantastic read.


  

Saturday, May 22, 2021

My Grandfather and My Favorite Nirvana Song


I recently posted my thoughts about my Grandfather, who passed away last week. While I will always have pictures and memories to remember him, there is also a song by Nirvana that brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.

The first time I heard "Sliver", it was on MTV in the mid-1990s. I was familiar with Nirvana's bigger hits such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Come As You Are", etc, but I had never heard this raw, punk-like Nirvana song. I wasn't even sure what album it was on (1994's Incesticide, I would find out. Although it was a single released during Nirvana's earlier days with SubPop Records.)

Sliver stayed in my memory for a long time as in those pre-internet days, trying to find a song you heard once was fairly difficult. Today, I would have searched YouTube for 10 minutes and found it. It wasn't until I found a bootleg copy of "The Best of Nirvana" at a vendor table in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998 that I finally owned the song I heard years earlier.

First, the video, then I will discuss why this song means so much to me.


When I was little, my parents and I lived approximately 10 minutes from my mother's parents. We went there regularly. It was there that I watched Star Wars on VHS for the first time - and every time I visited. While the adults talked and prepared dinner, I was in the living room watching Star Wars or cartoons. Every time.

And when my parents had to go somewhere and couldn't bring me, as the song says, they dropped me off at Grandpa Joe's. The rest of the lyrics also reflect different times at my Grandparents.


[Verse 1]

When Mom and Dad went to a show

They dropped me off at grandpa Joe's

I kicked and screamed

Said, "Please, don't go!"

Although I liked going to my Grandparents' house, I am sure I did this a few times.


[Verse 2]

Had to eat my dinner there

Mashed potatoes and stuff like that

I couldn't chew my meat too good

I ate dinner at my Grandparents' house many times. As a growing kid with a fast metabolism, my Grandmother used to say I had a hollow leg. One of my Grandmother's best dinners was meatloaf and mashed potatoes and stuff like that.


[Verse 3]

She said, "Why don't you stop your crying?

Go outside and ride your bike"

That's what I did

I killed my toe!

I don't remember riding my bike around my Grandparents' house when I was little, but when I was 10, we visited my Grandparents' new house in Florida. I went outside to ride a bike and instead of killing my toe, I flipped off the bike, banged my head, and had a concussion. Not quite the same, but close.


[Verse 4]

Well, after dinner I had ice cream

I fell asleep and watched TV

I woke up in my mothers arms!

I guarantee this happened. As I mentioned, I watched Star Wars every time I was there. And like most kids, I had a huge ice cream habit.

I am not sure if Kurt Cobain really had a Grandpa Joe. I am also not sure if his childhood was spent eating dinner at his Grandparents house, having ice cream for dessert, and falling asleep to Star Wars. Maybe this is just a catchy pop tune that popped into Cobain's brain as he was fiddling with his guitar. Maybe he just dug the rhythm of the lyrics and an Uncle Ralph or Uncle Fred wouldn't rhyme with "show".

But I had a Grandpa Joe and whenever Sliver plays, I will remember those days. 

Every line ends in rhyme. 


[Chorus]

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

Grandma, take me home!

I wanna be alone!