Friday, June 29, 2012

LARRY D. UNDERWOOD: Born June 30th, 1938


     Sitting up late tonight, taking care of business and remembering falling asleep as my father typed out his first book on a typewriter.  He had a big poster of Sitting Bull pasted to cardboard and tacked to the wall of the apartment where we lived in Brussels, Illinois in the early 70s.
     He finished the book.  It was about the "battle", the "massacre";  whatever you want to call it....a major military fuck up at Little Big Horn for the 7th was about Sitting Bull and Custer and it never got published, though it led to a long friendship between my Dad and the famous author of BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, Dee Brown.
     Part of that work, ended up in THE CUSTER FIGHT And Other Tales of the Old West.
     Dad published plenty of books and articles and got me my first writing job...a freelance arrangement with Bruce Campbell at THE CALHOUN NEWS covering my Brussels High School basketball team's games and I'm racing to finish this post before I lose steam.  He would be typing and compiling.  He would be cutting his pages up in strips and rearranging them.  I am get it down.
     He got me active and engendered an interest in baseball and Mark Twain...and gave me the gift of sarcasm that continues to give a goosey goosey to the world that needs it.  This world needs nothing more than to remind its active members to laugh...or at least take another look...a deeper look, before you go off in your directions of idiocy.

I wrote this piece for a few years ago while thinking about my early years and the interest we shared in horsehide, dust and the inevitably became a guideline about how to live with a little adversity.


I used to have a fastball.  Clocked at 87 miles-per-hour once or twice, it was no ticket to fame, but not bad for a lanky teenager. It used to dive under the mitts of catchers and rise enough to cause Major League scouts to cause notice when they spied my High School stats.  I threw crooked and left-handed and struck out a lot of country boys in the sunlight and under bad lighting on dirt fields.  Meanwhile, I learned to drink rank lager out of cans along gravel roads and sometimes on the next day, I’d pitch again, sore arm or not.

I threw a no-hitter the day after prom night my junior year.  I remember the second baseman pounding OJ and groaning in the seat across from me in the bus that Saturday morning, bitching about his weariness, his hangover, the sun and the noisy-ass bus.  I could be wrong, but I think he went three-for-four that day and we won in five innings.
He wasn’t bitching and moaning on the ride home.  I remember that for sure.
We rode home giddy and cocky and goofy as fuck.

When I was in Little League, we only played a dozen or so games a summer.  I had nothing to do but keep score during the KMOX broadcasts of Cardinals games when they were agonizingly close to first-place, but never there in the end.  I’d spazz out in my bedroom amidst posters of Kenny Reitz, Ted Simmons, Bob Gibson and other out-of-town legends such as Johnny Bench and Willie Mays, bouncing balls off the walls and diving around to test my agility and ability while Lou Brock stole base after base, free agency took effect in the Major Leagues and I busied myself in between pitches.  Occasionally, the games would show on television and I’d watch with my Dad, who turned me onto the history of the game by showing me around a board and dice game called Strat-O-Matic.  I could manage the ’74 Cardinals and test my luck against the ’54 Giants or the ’27 Yankees, managed by my father. We played catch and he threw me batting practice and took me to games at Busch Stadium. We would be there in time to enter as soon as the gates opened and stay for the last pitch, often waiting outside the clubhouse doors to gather autographs.  Every loss was agonizing to me.  I was only a frustrated fanatic.

 I rode along on bus trips with the high school team when I was a little dude and Dad was the coach.  I liked the sound of spikes on concrete and the rattling of the wood bats in the canvas bag…the pop of the mitt, the crack of the bat, the smell of Atomic Balm, the sign language between coaches and players and grass-stained baseballs.  I liked the different consistencies of dirt and the relief of water when my mouth was dry and my face was covered in dust after a long ride on gravel roads with the windows down.

Baseball is a sensory experience.  It stings, it burns, it aches, it itches and it sings with adrenalin in your veins when your motions fit with the poetry of the game.  When you kick it, drop it, throw it away or in the dirt, swing and miss it or pop it up, it hits you in the gut worse than Montezuma’s revenge.  The agony of defeat is real.  I prefer getting nutted by a bad hop to the feeling following a loss that I could’ve prevented.  But I prefer both of those feelings to getting upset while watching from the sidelines.  Especially when it is the fate of a bunch of millionaires hanging in the balance.

If you give a shit, the game will take all you got and throw it right back in your face, sometimes in the form of dirt, crow, humiliation and disgust.  Other times, though, you get something back that was worth the blisters, wind sprints, shin splints and strawberries.  My desire to master the game was enough to get me out of the cornfields and into a university.  When it all ended at the end of my junior year in college, my pitching elbow fucked with tendonitis, I was a lost soul for years, but I still knew that life was worth a lot of physical pain when you get to the other side of achievement.  Over twenty years later, I struggle to understand what life is like for those who don’t bother to bust out of inertia.  I love the comfort of a good rut. Don’t get me wrong. Coasting, gliding, piggybacking, oh yeah---that’s good stuff, too.  I’ll even admit to some corner-cutting and half-assing from time-to-time.  I learned a lot about those methods while enduring certain days of practice when I wasn’t feeling well, or was nursing a sprain or a strain.  I also learned that if you play through a little bit of pain, your mind will adjust and you can get the job done.  Then you’ll be in a better place while your muscles burn and your back aches.  The skunkiest, pisswater beer tastes all right in a place like that, but if you don’t want one of those hangovers, drink the good stuff.  Pain does not always lead to gain.  Sometimes it leads to suicide and bad poetry.

Which leads me to an important point: getting rid of the pain of fun gone stale.  The hangover is an unfortunate side effect of laziness.  Yes, you have to drink and maybe smoke and avoid drinking healthy amounts of water to achieve the existential dread of the hangover, but laziness only prolongs its power.  Do you enjoy being the whiny bitch or groaning loner after every night at the pool hall, wedding reception, wine-soaked book club meeting?  I’ll be honest, I do good work while hungover and enjoy long bouts of solitude, so I don’t avoid hangovers.  From my observations, though, most of you are different, so here is some advice: get some exercise.  A brisk walk will re-oxygenate you body and pump out the poison.  Drink lots of water.  It will never taste better. A run or bike ride evict the demons.  Soon you will feel like as if you are truly living.  That is only the effect of some tricky chemicals in your brain.  You will still be the same cog in the belly of the beast, but it will feel much better once you’ve rejuvenated yourself and are able to face reality.  In other words, fuck the game, don’t let the game fuck you!  Get up and do something about it and be ready for next time.  These sound like mad exhortations of a meth-addled wrestling coach, but their reasoning is sound and worth carrying out.

Of course, there is the realm of pleasure in the sack to relieve your aching brain. May favorite way to spend a day after a night of fun is to fill it with more fun. Get friendly with a leisurly hedonist who absolutely has to have two things in the morning: sex and food. Blow off class or work or and class and get to it as soon as you wake up. Nothing like it, Folks: the windows open and the sounds and breezes lowing in over your two-backed beast---its visit lasting until it is time to visit your favorite wok, bistro, pub, tavern or diner. A workout following chow! Good living, for sure, especially considering that a shower and more of the good stuff are excellent appetizers and deserts. Of course, that is the advantage of leisure and many of you bolt upright to the sound of his or her alarm clock, too late to enjoy such mornings, but you've got to do something to jettison the malaise and madness. Let them run off to work if they have to or get the hell away from them if they can't or won't perform in the morning (or afternoon).
Here is a vision of your future should you skirt the world of physical exertion: you may well stop drinking. 

I know, that sounds crazy, though many around you are crazy enough to practice abstinence and are being coaxed into such behavior by lots of advertising and a kazillion-dollar-a-year drug industry, not to mention an all encompassing police state.   So barring something obscene and deadly such as going dry, you might become one of those folks who is enamored with computer games, statistics, and lo-cal deserts.  You’ll suffer gastric difficulties due to stress from watching sports for its results without any regard for the beauty of the game itself.  You’re anxiety will be heightened by your appetite for tri-caffeinated cans of death which you will sometimes cut with vodka so that you don’t strangle the idiot you’re dating.  OR! Or, you could possibly become so devoured by the cult of fantasy leagues that well…let’s not go there. 
Yes, many favor delusions and illusions to rational thought and following a path of reason.  Some speak of unicorns and Santa Claus.  They drink the “blood of Christ”and go home to bleed internally over a sports event without any regard for the beauty of the game itself.  A morning will come when you realize you are one of the numbnuts you used to hate: that frustrated fanatic who screams at the TV.
Believe me.  It’s true. C’mon, you can save those activities for when you’re doped up on state-ordered soma in some geriatric hovel.

Don’t say no!  Enjoy the nightlife and physical activity while you can.  The stress will kill you before a little sensory stimulation…and if you do find yourself in need of a good, drying out spell, you’re going to need to sweat that out with some good, outdoor huffing and puffing, if not a little heave-ho!
If you can stand to get out of bed, that is.

Previously published in 52nd City’s SPORTY issue, July, 2007

Here is the obituary that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

ST. LOUIS: Larry Underwood Was educator in Godfrey


Larry Underwood, a retired educator in Brussels and Godfrey, died Monday (July 30, 2007) from complications of Parkinson's disease at his home in Meppen. He was 69.

A native of Delafield, Ill., Mr. Underwood moved to Shawneetown, Ill., as a youth. He received a bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and later earned a master's degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Both degrees were in education.

In 1957, Mr. Underwood enlisted in the Army. He served until 1960.

He started teaching in 1963 for the old Dahlgren School District in Dahlgren, Ill. After teaching drivers education and coaching for a year, he joined the Brussel school district.
Mr. Underwood taught seventh and eighth grade for a year before moving on to Brussels High School. While there, he served in many capacities: dean of students, librarian, American history and German teacher, and bus driver. He retired in 1993.

Mr. Underwood also taught at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey for nearly 20 years.

Mr. Underwood authored seven books on the Civil War and other history topics. The books were "Butternut Guerrillas," "Dreams of Glory," "Love and Glory," "Custer Fight," "Abilene Law Men," "All the President's Children" and "Guns, Gold and Glory."

Mr. Underwood was a member of the Calhoun Farm Bureau and the American Legion.

Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. today at St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Meppen Lane in Meppen. A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the church. Burial will follow in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Meppen.

Among the survivors are his wife, Sue Albert Underwood, whom he married in 1962; a son, Brett Underwood of St. Louis; two daughters, Melissa Ann Sievers of Meppen and Rebecca Baecht of Jerseyville; and three grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Blessing Hospice-Greene County, PO Box 89, Carrollton, Ill. 62016; or St. Joseph's Cemetery.


 spare tree at the arboretum, Shaw's Nature Preserve
Sitting at the Schlafly Tap Room on a Thursday night, thinking about being elsewhere and glad I was somewhere, waiting for The Conformists to show up with the Italian band KASH (keep wanting to spell it KA$H), I hid in the Eliot Room, away from the shiny, weird people and started typing into my shitty, little Sprint phone instead of bussing more tables.  Clearing more glasses.  Drinking more iced tea.

They got it.

Jason Hutto: "Ha!  Let's get you a producer."
Prinsess Tarta: "It's like you're a taller and more charming Eminem."

Various responses from others who probably saw through my musings to know I was reminding them of the show that was about to explode (I hoped.).

It all started like this:
"My phone writes bad raps.
Down down no way
I bet you got a new way?
Stuck in a bucket like a mop
with no name.
It’s 108 and I forgot to buy soap.
You can lead a whore to culture
if you can’t stand the Pope.
(Killing time waiting for bands to show up.)"

Andee Champion came back with:
Smoke pulled the pork.
Hawaii shaved the ice.
Voodoo did the donuts.
And we all stayed weird.
(I’m in Portland, Aregon.)

Andy Cohen wrote:
Limes, lemons, oranges never
foraged in a forest, pick them off
stickly arms of crackly, bony
porous/trees, we form and leave,
fuck formal authorities
we aim to sorta please these
crowds of forlorn feral forces..
(110 in Tucson, playing an anarchist Circus in Phoenix on Saturday, thenon to the post-coast)

The bands showed up.  The fans showed up.  The beer and the foam poured freely...and we rocked )))))))))))

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Playlist for The No Show on March 29th, 2002
Song Title
Zero Cold 
The Absolute Zeros 
The Attack of the Absolute Zeros  
Swallowed Hole and Hard to Swallow 
Jeff McLeod 
ye shall be cut into many pieces  *
The Pedestrian 
Ray Bradbury (with Brain Transplant) 
Bill Hicks (with Dave Stone) 
Rant in E-Minor  
Easter Gun 
Dr. No 
Texas Jailcell 
Jon Wayne 
Texas Funeral  
enduring the american dream  
David Dvorin 
Pol-krwi Japonka (Half-blooded Japanese) 
Tone Rodent 
Demo(n)  * +
Evangelist Porn 
Stiff Neck Roy 
Christianity is Stupid 
Escape from Noise  
Whigmaleerian Duologue 
Eric Glick Rieman 
ten to the googolplex  
The Light of Jesus 
Charles Bukowski 
Bukowski King of Poets  
Texas Wine 
Jon Wayne 
Texas Funeral   +
A Suspicious Package 
Jeff McLeod 
ye shall be cut into many pieces  *
Voices of the Dead 
Jeff McLeod 
ye shall be cut into many pieces  *
Return to Prime 
Shed Shot 
The Nouve a smoothma muse compilation   +
With(In)Communicado #2: Breakdown 
David Dvorin 
When Did I Stop Wanting to be President 
William S. Burroughs 
Totally Corrupt  
Down that Lonely Trail Together 
Dr. No 
Cradle to Grave 
Johnny Dowd 
Temporary Shelter  *
Awesome Sound 
Paintin' The Town Brown: Ween Live '90-98   +
     When I was a younger man, I walked the streets and alleys of St. Louis, alone, night and day for entertainment, transportation or simply to escape various claustrophobic dwellings.  Later on, I would walk to KDHX to air THE NO SHOW.  A few times, I walked from Dogtown where I was house-sitting to the South Side studios.  I had a suspended license and, well, I really liked to walk.  I liked to read and I liked to walk and I paid little attention to television.  Often, it was a short walk from one of my Shaw neighborhood apartments.  One day while in the Mid-County library in Clayton, I found a recording of "The Pedestrian".  I don't remember if it was on LP or cassette, but I checked it out and made plans to incorporate it into the mix of my late-night show.  THE NO SHOW aired from two to six a.m. back then and I was into field recordings and noise, so I found a Brain Transplant recording that seemed to fit as a bed for Bradbury's voice and podded the two up into the dark night and out through the transmitter. 
     No telling who was listening and who listened and then turned the dial, but I consider it to be one of the better programming ideas that I had back then.

Here is his story.  It is included in his 1953 collection GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN.

The Pedestrian
By Ray Bradbury

To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o'clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do. He would stand upon the corner of an intersection and peer down long moonlit avenues of sidewalk in four directions, deciding which way to go, but it really made no difference; he was alone in this world of 2053 A.D., or as good as alone, and with a final decision made, a path selected, he would stride off, sending patterns of frosty air before him like the smoke of a cigar.
Sometimes he would walk for hours and miles and return only at midnight to his house. And on his way he would see the cottages and homes with their dark windows, and it was not unequal to walking through a graveyard where only the faintest glimmers of firefly light appeared in flickers behind the windows. Sudden gray phantoms seemed to manifest upon inner room walls where a curtain was still undrawn against the night, or there were whisperings and murmurs where a window in a tomb-like building was still open.
Mr Leonard Mead would pause, cock his head, listen, look, and march on, his feet making no noise on the lumpy walk. For long ago he had wisely changed to sneakers when strolling at night, because the dogs in intermittent squads would parallel his journey with barkings if he wore hard heels, and lights might click on and faces appear and an entire street be startled by the passing of a lone figure, himself, in the early November evening.
On this particular evening he began his journey in a westerly direction, toward the hidden sea. There was a good crystal frost in the air; it cut the nose and made the lungs blaze like a Christmas tree inside; you could feel the cold light going on and off, all the branches filled with invisible snow. He listened to the faint push of his soft shoes through autumn leaves with satisfaction, and whistled a cold quiet whistle between his teeth, occasionally picking up a leaf as he passed, examining its skeletal pattern in the infrequent lamplights as he went on, smelling its rusty smell.
'Hello, in there,' he whispered to every house on every side as he moved. 'What's up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9? Where are the cowboys rushing, and do I see the United States Cavalry over the next hill to the rescue?'
The street was silent and long and empty, with only his shadow moving like the shadow of a hawk in mid-country. If he closed his eyes and stood very still, frozen, he could imagine himself upon the center of a plain, a wintry, windless Arizona desert with no house in a thousand miles, and only dry river beds, the street, for company.
'What is it now?' he asked the houses, noticing his wrist watch. Eight-thirty P.M.? Time for a dozen assorted murders? A quiz? A revue? A comedian falling off the stage?'
Was that a murmur of laughter from within a moon-white house? He hesitated, but went on when nothing more happened. He stumbled over a particularly uneven section of sidewalk. The cement was vanishing under flowers and grass. In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not one in all that time.
He came to a cloverleaf intersection which stood silent where two main highways crossed the town. During the day it was a thunderous surge of cars, the gas stations open, a great insect rustling and a ceaseless jockeying for position as the scarab-beetles, a faint incense puttering from their exhausts, skimmed homeward to the far directions. But now these highways, too, were like streams in a dry season, all stone and bed and moon radiance.
He turned back on a side street, circling around toward his home. He was within a block of his destination when the lone car turned a corner quite suddenly and flashed a fierce white cone of light upon him. He stood entranced, not unlike a night moth, stunned by the illumination, and then drawn toward it.
A metallic voice called to him:
'Stand still. Stay where you are! Don't move!'
He halted.
'Put up your hands!'
'But-' he said.
'Your hands up! Or we'll shoot!'
The police, of course, but what a rare, incredible thing; in a city of three million, there was only one police car left, wasn't that correct? Ever since a year ago, 2052, the election year, the force had been cut down from three cars to one. Crime was ebbing; there was no need now for the police, save for this one lone car wandering and wandering the empty streets.
'Your name?' said the police car in a metallic whisper. He couldn't see the men in it for the bright light in his eyes.
'Leonard Mead,' he said.
'Speak up!'
'Leonard Mead!'
Business or profession?'
'I guess you'd call me a writer.'
No profession,' said the police car, as if talking to itself. The light held him fixed, like a museum specimen, needle thrust through chest.
'You might say that,' said Mr Mead.
He hadn't written in years. Magazines and books didn't sell anymore. Everything went on in the tomb-like houses at night now, he thought, continuing his fancy. The tombs, ill-lit by television light, where the people sat like the dead, the gray or multi-colored lights touching their faces, but never really touching them.
'No profession,' said the phonograph voice, hissing. 'What are you doing out?'
'Walking,' said Leonard Mead.
'Just walking,' he said simply, but his face felt cold.
'Walking, just walking, walking?'
'Yes, sir.'
'Walking where? For what?'
'Walking for air. Walking to see.'
'Your address!'
'Eleven South Saint James Street.'
'And there is air in your house, you have an air conditioner, Mr Mead?'
'And you have a viewing screen in your house to see with?'
'No?' There was a crackling quiet that in itself was an accusation.
'Are you married, Mr Mead?'
'Not married,' said the police voice behind the fiery beam. The moon was high and dear among the stars and the houses were gray and silent.
'Nobody wanted me,' said Leonard Mead with a smile.
'Don't speak unless you're spoken to!'
Leonard Mead waited in the cold night.
'Just walking; Mr Mead?'
But you haven't explained for what purpose.'
'I explained; for air, and to see, and just to walk.'
'Have you done this often?'
Every night for years.'
The police car sat in the center of the street with its radio throat faintly humming.
'Well, Mr Mead', it said.
''s that all?' he asked politely.
'Yes,' said the voice. 'Here.' There was a sigh, a pop. The back doot of the police car sprang wide. 'Get in.'
'Wait a minute, 1 haven't done anything!'
'Get in.'
'I protest!'
'Mr Mead.'
He walked like a man suddenly drunk. As he passed the front window of the car he looked in. As he had expected, there was no one in the front seat, no one in the car at all.
'Get in.'
He put his hand to the door and peered into the back seat, which was a little cell, a little black jail with bars. It smelled of riveted steel. It smelled of harsh antiseptic; it smelled too clean and hard and metallic. There was nothing soft there.
'Now if you had a wife to give you an alibi,' said the iron voice. 'But-'
Uhere are you taking me?'
The car hesitated, or rather gave a faint whirring click, as if information, somewhere, was dropping card by punch- slotted card under electric eyes. 'To the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.'
He got in. The door shut with a soft thud. The police car rolled through the night avenues, flashing its dim lights ahead.
They passed one house on one street a moment later, one house in an entire city of houses that were dark, but this one particular house had all of its electric lights brightly lit, every window a loud yellow illumination, square and warm in the cool darkness.
'That's my house,' said Leonard Mead.
No one answered him.
The car moved down the empty riverbed streets and off away, leaving the empty streets with the empty sidewalks, and no sound and no motion all the rest of the chill November night.  

...and then there's this:
THE PEDESTRIAN according to Ray Bradbury Theater: 
Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

BLU at Poetry Scores reading: Wednesday, June 13th

Photobucket A blog about a blog about a reading happening soon? Yep. See Chris King's description of the upcoming Poetry Scores event at THE ROYALE on Wednesday, June 13th I've been writing and I'll be reading some of that new work...and drinking some of the fine beer selections offered at THE ROYALE I might read this piece for a goof, and because it reminds me of a night when I was working at a pub with Robert Goetz, who might be able to come up with a guitar riff or two to dress it up...and we used to record and do late-night radio together, too, so this will be somewhat of a reunion.

She’s as dumb as a mud fence.
She’s as dumb as a mud fence.
Boy, you gotta head like a windsock.
Boy, you gotta head like a windsock.
Ellie Mae, you’re showin’ more meat than a butcher’s winda.
Ellie Mae, you’re showin’ more meat than a butcher’s winda.
I can’t hit the bottom, but I can bang the hell outta the sides.
I can’t hit the bottom, but I can bang the hell outta the sides.
Damn, Jesse, putta jimmy on it!
Damn, Jesse, putta jimmy on it!
Aunt Bea, I gotta rash.
Aunt Bea, I gotta rash.
Your corksa bobbin’, Andy.
Your corksa bobbin’, Andy.
Granny! Your possum stew smells mighty fine.
Granny! Your possum stew smells mighty fine.
Jenkins gotta new perp in his ride, say his name is E. Pluribus Cunningham.
Jenkins gotta new perp in his ride, say his name is E. Pluribus Cunningham.
Boy, you gotta head like a windsock. Boy, you gotta head like a windsock.
 Lemme tell ya: It’s rainin’ canines and felines out here, folks! Heh Heh Heh.
Lemme tell ya: It’s rainin’ canines and felines out here, folks! Heh heh heh.
That’s all, Your Honor.