Jun 24, 2016

How To Get To Third Base



Last night at MCU Park, in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a few short miles from the house I grew up in, I finally got to third base.

For most of Little League, I was a solid fielder and baserunner, but I was a terrible hitter.  I was a super shy, sensitive kid, and the constant defeat of every strikeout took its toll on me.  It wasn't long before I was banished to the bottom of the lineup and out to Right Field (aka 'Little League Purgatory').

At some point, to relieve the pressure of (not) hitting the ball, my father suggested I learn how to pitch.  Soon, being out there on the mound became a badge of honor for the kid who couldn't hit.  I didn't throw hard, but I had great control and a fundamental understanding of pitching that led to my election to my league's All-Star Game and the big confidence boost that accompanied it.  I still couldn't hit for shit, tho - so when I wasn't pitching, it was back to Purgatory.

In Little League, I hit a few singles, maybe a couple of doubles, but I never got to third base.



Last night at MCU Park, in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a few short miles from where I played Little League, in front of my Elvis Duran Show co-workers and a crowd of dozens, I finally got to third base.

I didn't play ball in high school - not big enough, not strong enough.  Not dedicated enough.  I got into music and girls and Stephen King.  I played drums in my parents' basement and listened to Def Leppard albums in my broom closet-sized room.  I nerded out on Calvin and Hobbes and horror movies and left the sports to the jocks.

I started playing softball in a league with my co-workers at Waldbaum's, a Brooklyn supermarket where I spent my after-school weeknights, making money so I could buy more Stephen King books and Def Leppard albums.  I worked in the frozen food aisle with my sister's boyfriend.  He was the captain of our team and treated me with respect, batting me high in the lineup and letting me play the infield.

In the Waldbaum's league, I was a pretty solid player.  I hustled and made some nice plays in the field, even pitched a little.  I got plenty of singles, more than a few doubles, but I never got to third base.



Last night at MCU Park in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a few short miles from where I played softball in the Waldbaum's league, in a concrete lot across the street from the high school both my parents went to, I finally got to third base.

I barely play softball anymore.  Whenever the folks at iHeartMedia decide to put on a company softball game, I play.  If there's something going on for charity, I play.  The Brooklyn Cyclones are good friends of the morning show, and I've been psyched to participate in a handful of charity events they've hosted, last night's included.  Both my gloves drowned in a hurricane, so now I borrow my Dad's whenever I make a softball cameo.

In all of those games, I've performed admirably, especially for a guy who plays once or twice a year.  I've hit a few singles, maybe a hustle double or two, but I never got to third base.



Last night at MCU Park in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a mile or so from where I stacked frozen broccoli florets in a Waldbaum's freezer, at The Biggest Gay Softball Tournament Ever, in front of four teams comprised of gays and lesbians, I finally got to third base.

This is how I did it - and this is how you can do it too - in just 5 simple steps.


Step 1: Carry A Big Stick

The bigger your stick, the more the balls are likely to carry and the better chance you have to round the bases.  If you don't know how to handle your stick, you're more likely to strike out than you are to bang one out.  Don't believe me?  Ask Skeery Jones.

Step 2: Find A Hole

In slow pitch softball, it's all about placement.  You've gotta position your stick and your body to find a hole.  I'm a dead pull hitter, and so I poked one right down the line in No Man's Land between third base and left field.  From there, it was off to the races.

Step 3: Be Aggressive

As illustrated in the photo above, the ball is being received by the second baseman and I'm already like "Peace out, mofo."  I had no business heading to third base but I went for it anyway.  Ask yourself how bad you want to get to third base, then find an opening and go get what you came for.

Step 4: Dive In Hard

Since the ball was thrown in behind me, and unaware of what was happening in my rear, I decided to dive for the bag, kicking up some grass on the field in the process.  It was pretty thrilling, diving headfirst into third without hesitation.  Also, if this looks like the slide of someone who is sliding headfirst for the first time, that's because it is the first time.  Looks like I got hit by a rhinoceros.

Step 5: If You Make It, Get Pumped

After cradling the base, I popped up and immediately high-fived the biggest guy on my team, showing everyone that I meant business.  In the moment, I thought about pulling third base out of the dirt and taking it home, Rickey Henderson style.  Sure, my left hand was bruised and I had cut up my left leg pretty good, but I had a triple.  I had gotten to third base.


To prove how this whole situation had injected me with confidence, during my next at-bat, I hit another triple, and this time I got there standing up.  Getting to third base is always easier the second time around.

Our ragtag Elvis Duran Show team lost the game 12-10, which was pretty impressive considering we had a one-armed, one-legged pitcher, a catcher who had never worn a glove or swung a bat before, the immortal, aforementioned Skeery Jones batting third, and about 25 less players than the opposing team.

As for me, as always, I did my best to contribute, to add a little excitement to the game.  To enjoy the moment.  When I got home, I texted Dad to thank him for letting me use his glove.  To tell him I hit two triples.  To tell him I finally got to third base.  Twice.  But I still needed someone to drive me home.

Guess I'll have to hit a dinger next time.


Softball photos courtesy of Teri Brennan Photography.
For more on the Big Apple Softball League, click here.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Mar 24, 2016

A*Pathetic Song - Songs From The Last Q*Ball Album





I don't wanna do this anymore.


This.... recollecting.

It has been a big theme here in the ol' Bald Freak Blog-o-sphere since ol' Superstorm Sandy came around and turned ol' Ron's life upside down.  Reflection.

Lately, I've been living in the moment.  I've just been living.  But I come back here every month to take my medicine, ten songs' worth, and this is my last pill.  Usually I drink a little whiskey, maybe take a puff, and reflect on a specific moment that inspired each of the ten songs that comprise The Last Q*Ball Album.  That has been the ritual.

Recounting experiences with dreaded ex'es is a musician's birthright.  Ask everyone from Phil Collins to Taylor Swift, they've all got a tune that fits the bill, some have dozensThe greatest songs in the world are about Some Jerk or Some Bitch.  The greatest songs in the world are about love and loss, life and death.  The Last Q*Ball Album is about my life from 2011-2014.  Was that the darkest period of my relatively short life?  Maybe.  I've had others.  Don't we all?

Right now, I'm having a really good time.  So it has become a bit of a chore to look down at the valley from up on the hill, and I say that knowing full well that somewhere, perhaps way beyond the horizon, another valley awaits.  I say that knowing full well that my life is blessed right now.  I say that knowing that I have made peace with all my Bad Choices, with all the rotten apples I've picked from The Love Tree.



But that's good.  It's humbling to recall when you were once down in a pit, relying on the unreliable to help pull you out - aware that the choices you made were poor, or in some cases, just outright irresponsible, and yet making them anyway - following some fucked-up destiny that you thought you deserved.

A*Pathetic Song is about giving up on fucked-up destiniesIt was the last Q*Ball song I ever released, years before it became the last song on Ron Scalzo's The Last Q*Ball Album.  It's about giving up on Q*Ball, and that asterisk that I insisted on including as part of my electronic alter-ego, a simple keyboard character that would create all types of issues in a digital age - from royalty collecting to search engine confusion and beyond.  That's why I put that asterisk in the title of this song, because it was a Bad Choice, and Lord knows I've made my share of bad choices in the time it took me to make this album, and not just romantic ones. 


Two other Q-Balls showed up after me, a rapper from Milwaukee and a prog rock act from Pennsylvania.  More headaches, more confusion.  When creating a logo for the project with my good friend Seth Kushner, we borrowed heavily from the logo for a used clothing store in Brooklyn.  More bad choices, more unwanted controversy.  On my first release, I lifted audio from Depeche Mode, The Chemical Brothers, Led Zeppelin, The Phunk Junkeez, White Zombie, Jesus Jones, Ennio Morricone, and the All In The Family theme song.  I never got clearance for any of these samples, and I was never punished for any of it, criminally or monetarily.  Karma-wise, however....



Karma can be a bitch for those who make bad choices, and back then, I was a real dingbat.

One could assume that A*Pathetic Song is about a woman - considering every other song on The Last Q*Ball Album is - and of course, the themes are evident.  The second verse is all about My Jealous Ex, my wounded birdIn my mind, that vicious green monster was the (biggest) cause of our eventual demise, and five years removed, I still feel the same.  We loved each other, and in a lot of ways, we were good for each other, but the jealous rages and all that came with it were something I could never fully overcome, and eventually the levee breaks.

The girl who came next - My Cheating Ex - told me on more than one occasion that A*Pathetic Song was a big reason she fell in love with me, felt attached to me.  She of course felt this way while existing as another guy's prize.  She was a cheating trapeze artist, never allowing a day or even a minute to pass without swinging over to the next guy's waiting arms.



Apathy is neither positive nor negative.  It is unfeeling, uncaring.  Years after I wrote this song, it is the predominant feeling I have about both of these women.  I don't care about either of them.  The passion that existed for both - once perceived as this awesome, inspiring thing - has dissolved.  I don't wonder what they're up to, I don't stalk them on social networking, I probably won't show up to their funerals nor will they to mine.  They are ghosts.  They are hard lessonsAt the time, they were risks worth taking.


The heart wants what it wants.  Often times, for me, there has been no stopping it, even when the brain and the gut are pulling me in the opposite direction.  I'm not a dumb guy, but I have certainly been a big dope for love.  On the road to win My Cheating Ex back, I distinctly remember trudging thru the snow outside her apartment telling myself as much aloud.

What are you doing, idiot?

Because she was with another guy.  I knew about him and he knew about me, but we only knew as much as we were told by the woman pulling our strings.  She pitted us against each other, two knights looking to win the fair maiden, only we both ultimately discovered that we were fighting over a troll instead. 

All that nonsense was part of my Hurricane Story, part of my comeback.  I was pulling strings too, only my words and actions came from an honest place.  I urged her to leave him, to even leave us both until she truly figured out what she wanted, but she had already figured that part out - she wanted to be a princess.


But she turned out to be A*Pathetic Princess, a social networking addicted pathological liar disguised as a responsible middle-aged woman.  I can still hear her drunken slurring the night I came back to our apartment to discover the inevitable truth on her cell phone, her tool of deceit.


After all that mess, I was finally free.  I didn't go to therapy.  I didn't cry.  I wasn't in shock.  I stopped glamorizing this person even tho I had already seen her ugly side more than once before.  My eyes were finally all the way open. 



Instead, I did what this woman always encouraged me to do while we were together, while she was cheating on the guy before me with meI made music.  I made this album.  I got it all out of my system, but it takes more than just ten songs to get over this sort of romantic bullshit.  Anyone who tells you different is a worse liar than my dirty little cheater.  Some of us never get over it.
 

The scars of being let down by two women who were totally unlike each other in so many ways may have faded, but new habits are borne.  I'm cautious now, maybe overly so.  My heart doesn't suffer fools gladly.  My gut is on Red Alert on every date.  That was the last thing I wrote to My Cheating Princess - it will take me a long time to trust again, and she was to thank for it. 

But it's not just her fault.  The Internet has played its part.  There's always another beau-in-waiting just a mouse-click away.  I can wine you and dine you, I can be the perfect gentleman, but after I kiss you goodnight, there are still a dozen dudes waiting on all these dime-a-dozen dating apps.  On Instagram, on Snapchat.  It's a gold mine of dick and pussy, only most of it is fool's gold, Candy Crush for Lonely Hearts.


 
Do I exist in that world?  Sure.  Have I gone on decent dates, then rushed to the smartphone when I got home, seeking out something better?  I have.  I'm no angel when it comes to my relationship with my own phone, but I'm not accountable to anyoneI'm playing the game in a world where "meeting cute" and "eye contact" no longer exist.  So I embrace my solitude, I'm patient with it.  I have music to thank for that, and running too.  I have my dog and my job and my friends and This Stoopid Blog to help fill my days rather than drama and private investigating.


Writing about those misadventures was good medicine at first, a great exercise that also acted as a way to promote my first new album in years, my first solo album ever.  But now it's poison.  Because I'm free.  I'm over it, all of it.  I'm climbing a mountain - and the higher you get, the less you can afford to look down.

For those of you who have ever been let down by someone else, for those of you who have put all your eggs in the Love Basket only to end up with yolk all over your face, let me tell you:

IT GETS BETTER


But you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make it better.  It's on you.  The healing comes from you, not to you.  You may be let down again, so make better choices, or maybe don't choose anyone at all for a little while.  Choose yourself instead.  Be the best You that you can be and good things will happen.

If that means being apathetic about love until someone worthy of your heart comes along, then so be it.  Better to feel that way than to feel that pit in your stomach after discovering the ugly truth.  Better to feel that way than to feel that burning hate that makes you want to break a chair with your bare hands or, even worse, break another guy's face.  None of that really solves anything, unless you need some extra firewood.


Better to feel that way than to keep telling yourself that the frog you chose is a prince or that the troll you pined over is a princess.  The truth comes out - it always comes out, whether you force it out or it blows up in your innocent, unwitting face.  Where there's smoke, there's fire - if you smell something burning, just run away.  Run.  You might still live a fucked-up destiny, but it won't be because you picked a rotten apple.  You're never fully in control of what happens, but you can at least steer the ship in a particular direction and avoid some rough tide.

Sure, You Deserve The Best.  But if you're shit, then you deserve shit.  In my younger, dumber days, I was pathetic too.  I was just another ape.  But I have evolved.  I'm free as a bird.  Life has never been better.  The book - or in this case, the album - is closed.


A*men to that.

   
***
The Last Q*Ball Album
by Ron Scalzo
Available now on iTunes and Amazon

A*PATHETIC SONG

I don't wanna do this anymore
Go away
I can't help but think of you
Longing for something new
I don't wanna be alone
I don't wanna do this anymore
Can't seem to fit my arms around you
We seemed so lost before I found you
The space between us is growing wider every day
Give me a reason to stay or just
Go away

***
 
Ron Scalzo - piano, loops, vocals
Chris Pennie - synths, loops

Music and Words by Ron Scalzo

Copyright 2012, 2014 Bald Freak Music (ASCAP)


Recorded at Hurricane House, Staten Island, NY and The Boiler Room, Princeton, NJ
Engineered by Fight Mannequins, Ron Scalzo and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal
Mixed by Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal

Artwork by Joseph Milazzo
Mastered by Michael Judeh at Dubway Studios