Monday, April 29, 2013

The Great Drive-In Debate

This "My Turn" column appeared in the Kenosha News this morning:

As I write this, there are rumors that we might see 60 degrees today. Of course, later in the week it’s supposed to be back in the low 40s with a chance of snow showers. Hopefully the warm weather will stick around at some point.

Something that coincides with warmer weather is the urge to visit drive-in restaurants. In Kenosha we are fortunate to have not one, but two ’50s-style hamburger drive-ins to choose from, Big Star and The Spot. And everyone has their favorite. 

First of all let’s make it clear that there is a well-defined difference between a drive-in and a fast food restaurant. There are fast food joints all over America. In fact they are all over the world. You would be hard pressed to go anywhere and not find a McDonalds or Burger King. Now go to those same places and try to find The Spot or Big Star. It’s not going to happen.

Fast food is fast food, no matter where you are. A Whopper is a Whopper and a Big Mac is a Big Mac, whether you are in Kenosha, Wis., or London, England. But a Big Star double-cheeseburger is specific to our fair city, as are the double-cheeseburgers at The Spot. 

Back in the ’70s there were at least five drive-ins to choose from. Besides The Spot and Big Star, there was also A&W (which later became Andy’s Drive-in), Chat ‘n’ Chew and the legendary Fon Tan Blu. Each had its own distinct style and menu. 

Alas, venerable institutions like Chat ‘n’ Chew and Fon Tan Blu no longer grace our hometown. In my humble opinion, with all due respect to Andy’s — which is primarily a sit-down establishment, although if you leave your headlights on they will provide carhop service — Kenosha only has two true drive-ins. The Spot and Big Star are the two remaining survivors, both having their loyal legion of supporters.

Earlier I mentioned double-cheeseburgers. They are the standard for any good drive-in to be judged by. The double-cheeseburgers at both The Spot and Big Star have their own unique characteristics and are outstanding for a variety of reasons.

The freshness of the ingredients in a Spot double-cheeseburger is second to none. The meat appears to have been ground and formed into a patty moments before hitting the grill. If you like your onions grilled, you will love the ample amount slathered on this sandwich. The only downside to this tasty delight is that too much of the cheese sticks to the wrapper! But that would be nitpicking. 

The double-cheeseburger at Big Star is no slouch either. What sets it apart from the rest is its cheese. Some will tell you it is some sort of cheese sauce, while others say it is Cheese Whiz. Still others claim it is Velveeta. It remains somewhat of a mystery. Who knows for sure? Whatever it is, it’s good. And packaging the yummy sandwich in a Styrofoam container solves the oozing cheese problem. You just wait for it to cool and then dig it out with your finger.

Because both drive-ins are so exceptional, a strong debate exists on which is superior. I recently conducted an informal poll on Facebook to see which drive-in Kenosha residents prefer. The question was first posted on March 24th. People are still casting votes in the form of heartfelt comments as I write this. 

Christine posted, “Both have their strong points! Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool…” Another interesting comment came from 3rd district Alderman Jan Michalski, who said, “Big Star, the first hamburger I ever had.” Perhaps Patrick best summed up the debate with, “This potentially can be as divided as Bears or Packers, Cubs or Brewers, Ginger or Mary-Ann. This community is fortunate to have these two unique eateries that we're passionate about. Uniquely Kenosha.” 

So which drive-in emerged victorious in this nonbinding referendum? Which of these storied establishments came out on top? Which does Kenosha prefer? The Spot won the spirited battle with 56 percent of the vote, while Big Star earned a respectable 44 percent. 

The warmer weather is supposedly on the way. Whether you are a fan of Big Star or The Spot, go out and enjoy one of Kenosha’s first-class drive-ins. Speaking from years of personal experience, you won’t be disappointed either way. Trust me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Survivor 26.11

Here is the Official Survivor: Caramoan Recap for week eleven:

Mary Beth’s 2Cents:
In the aftermath of last week's epic tribal council, it was interesting to see everyone congratulating Malcolm, Eddy and Reynolds for perpetrating the demise of Special Agent Phil. Clearly, though the other were respectfully stunned by what happened, they were also all really happy that the nutcake that is Philip was finally gone! Cochran even expressed deep awe at how it all played out.

But after 29 days away from family and friends, even the kick in the pants to Phil could not keep their spirits up. People were starting to crack. They say they're hungry (though for the life of me I don't know why because they're eating something all the time), and tired and emotionally spent. Brenda broke down in tears and I think I could hear Paul getting a little sniffly at home too. His girl was hurting!

But never fear, it was time for the Food Auction once again and that perked everyone right up! Malcolm, thinking ahead, knew there was bound to be some kind of advantage on the auction block and vowed to forego bidding on food items for it. So what does that cute dunderhead do? The minute Probst brings up peanuts and beer, Malcolm shouts out a bid! Yup, he couldn't control himself and used some of his precious money for peanuts and a couple of beers.

The rest the auction was pretty textbook. Reynold won the bid on a “blind item” which he was given three options to choose. He wouldn't listen to Cochran who suggested trading his original choice and ended up spending a lot of money on one slice of pizza. Sherri blurted out that she would give all of her money for the rest of that pizza and Probst took her up on it. Dawn paid $500 for a roasted chicken. Malcolm used the rest of his money to get a clue that only he could see – for 60 seconds. It was a clue to where another idol was hidden.

Andrea bought spaghetti and garlic bread and fine Chianti but she was given the option to skip that for a bag of rice and beans for camp. She took the rice and beans. Cochran held out and got the advantage in the Immunity Challenge.

Throughout all of this Brenda was too scared to bid. She almost had to be talked into it. She finally forked over $300 and when Probst took the lid off the plate it was a pile of pigs brains. EW! Anyone who had $20 could get a letter from home. This left Malcolm, Sherri and Dawn out because they spent all of their money.

Finally, for $200, Eddie bought a huge bowl of peanut butter that he had to share with everyone. It was pretty gross watching them grab handfuls of the stuff and shove it in their faces. Sherri was even feeding Cochran who eagerly licked peanut butter off her fingers. Considering none of these people have bathed in weeks it looked pretty disgusting.

Back at camp, emotions ran high as they read their letters from home. Even Cochran got weepy and that made me get a little weepy too. I'm a wimp that way. The Three Amigos – Malcolm, Eddie and Reynold – knew they had some work ahead of them so they began courting Sherri and Erik to try to get them to join up with them.

Malcolm awoke in the wee hours of the morning to go look for the idol for which he had a clue but sneaky Andrea saw him and tailed him mercilessly. She staged a little “sit in” and wouldn't leave unless he did. Malcolm referred to her as “the little sister I can't get rid of”. She was more like a gnat… you swat it and swat it and it just keeps buzzing in your face. I'm not a big fan of Andrea. She needs to be gone soon.

The Immunity Challenge was a classic show of strength and endurance. Each person had to hold up heavy logs using one hand on a rope. In five-minute increments they had to move their hand lower to a new knot each time until they reached the end. The last person standing wins.

Cochran's advantage from the auction was that he could move his hand up two knots at any time. He's a smart cookie, that one. He used his advantage when they all got move the second time which put him right back on top and ensured he would never get to the end where there was no knot. One by one, they all dropped off – Brenda, Erik, Sherri, Malcolm, Andrea, Dawn, Reynold, and Eddie – in that order. Which means, Cochran won! He later pointed out that in the past he was always ostracized for not being a threat in challenges but now he's won HALF of the individual immunity challenges so he is indeed a threat.

There was a lot of scrambling before Tribal. Everyone was trying to figure out the best plan and who to vote with and for and whatnot. By the time they got there I wasn't sure who was going. But I was also worried. The remaining Stealth R Us alliance still had the numbers and they really wanted Malcolm gone. After the votes were in it ended up being a three-way tie with Malcolm, Reynold and Andrea and that was when I knew what was going to happen. It was clear as day that my Malcolm was going home. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I'm not a very happy baldy at the moment.

Vag’s Evaluation: Well, well, well, another outstanding episode of the greatest reality show ever. We had it all tonight. There was crying, an auction, an all time great quote, some more crying, an unlikely winner in the Immunity Challenge, some scrambling and conniving and in the end, Mary Beth has her heart broken. What a show!

The episode starts with my girl Brenda crying her pretty little eyes out. Fortunately, Dawn, of all people, consoles her and is able to get her to turn the waterworks off. Good thing, I thought I might have to check my Frequent Flyer miles and book a flight to the Philippines.

With that situation under control, it was time for a Survivor classic – the Food Auction with each castaway given $500 to bid with. Here’s who won what:

Malcolm - $20 for beer, peanuts and pretzels.
Reynold - $180 for one slice of pizza.
Sherri - $500 for the rest of the pizza.
Dawn - $500 for a roasted chicken.
Malcolm - $480 for secret info regarding ANOTHER Hidden Immunity Idol.
Andrea - $280 for a spaghetti dinner, which she graciously exchanged for beans and rice for the camp.
Cochran - $320 for an advantage in the Immunity Challenge. More on that later.
Brenda - $300 for a plate of pig brain. What gives?! She doesn’t even eat pork!
Everyone who had $20 left was able to buy the treasured letters from loved ones. The only ones not able to purchase this were Dawn, Sherri and Malcolm.
Eddie - $200 for a giant bowl of peanut butter that he had to share with the other castaways. The only caveat was they only had 60 seconds to scarf up as much as possible. This was quite interesting to say the least.

Plus, it produced the magnificent quote.

As the castaways were gobbling up the creamy goodness, Sherri scooped up a big glob and flirtatiously offered it to Cochran, who proceeded to seductively lick it off of her fingers. With a big grin on his face, everyone’s favorite nerd, said to host Jeff Probst, “Did you see that?” A smiling Probst said, “I did. How often does that happen?” Without blinking, Cochran smugly replied, “More often than you think.”

What a moment! What a quote! What a nerd!
Back at camp, there was more blubbering. Sherri and Dawn were sniveling because they didn’t get the letters from their love ones, while Brenda and Cochran wept because they did. Tears of joy, I suppose. All I know is that there was plenty of boo-hooing going on.

Early the next morning, Malcolm tried to slip away to search for the Hidden Immunity Idol. Much to his chagrin, Andrea saw him and followed him relentlessly, not letting the studly bohunk out of her sight. When he saw that she wasn’t going away, he returned to camp frustrated without the Hidden Immunity Idol.

At the Immunity Challenge, the competitors had to hold up a large log with a knotted rope using only one hand. Every five minutes they had to move down one knot, making it increasingly harder. This is when we learned that Cochran’s advantage was that at any time he could move back up two knots. This proved to be crucial, because at the end when the rest had no more knots and only the end of the rope to grasp, Cochran still had a knot to hang onto.

Here is the order they dropped out: Brenda, Erik (wuss), Sherri, Malcolm, Andrea, Dawn, Reynold, Eddie, with Cochran and his Kung Fu grip winning Individual Immunity. It makes you wonder where he developed such strength in his hand!

Before Tribal Council there was some scrambling and conniving by the Three Amigos – Malcolm, Reynold and Eddie. They attempted to sway Sherri and Erik into their alliance, but were not successful. Even so, Tribal Council wasn’t without a modicum of suspense.

The first vote end with benevolent Andrea, Malcolm and Reynold all receiving three votes. With those three unable to vote in the second vote, Malcolm was sent home unanimously, even garnering Amigo Eddie’s vote. It was at this point that I heard a loud NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! coming from Mary Beth’s house near Lake Michigan. Alas, her boyfriend is now relegated to hanging out with Michael and Special Agent Phil on the jury.

That’s it. Only two more Wednesday episodes until the big finale on Sunday, May 12th. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Arno Was On Fire!

Former Koos Inc. employee and friend, Randy Lain was talking about Koos on Facebook and requested a story about the old place. Since it has been so cold and miserable lately, this is the perfect classic to pull from the vault. It is about everyone’s favorite, Arno Schubert. To help jog your memory, here’s the quick thumbnail sketch of Mr. Schubert. As I wrote previously in “Arno: A Koos Legend”, he was a cantankerous old German who weighed in at about 230 pounds and stood 6’2”. His unkept hair was reddish-brown and, as was his scraggly beard and uneven moustache.

The man was a phenomenon at Koos and the stories about this unbelievable fellow have become quite popular on this blog. His seemingly unbelievable escapades are the things legends are made of. In fact, tales about Arno are so hot; I thought I would share one where he was on fire.

In the blog, “My First Labor Day”, I mentioned that Koos Inc. featured no running water. Most guys simply stepped to the nearest open dock door to relieve themselves. If you wanted to use an actual restroom you had to maneuver through the entire plant, walk down a long flight of stairs and go outside across the yard to the “Jap Shack”.

The reason there was no running water in the antiquated structure was because at that time there was, for the most part, no heat. There were only two areas in the old building that had any heat – the shipping dock office and a small room that housed a Hayssen packaging machine.

Unless you were operating the Hayssen machine or were going through orders in the shipping dock office, you had to deal with the temperature. If it was 10° outside, it wasn’t any warmer inside, so you dressed accordingly. The “layered look” was the fashion statement of the day - coveralls, heavy sweatshirts, flannels, parkas, long underwear, heavy boots… Anything to stay warm.

Needless to say, the crew at Koos Inc. was a sight to behold during the winter of 1975. But no individual was more colorful than that crusty Kraut, Arno Schubert. Topping a multitude of layers was his trademark bulky, cream-colored turtleneck sweater that had weird brown stains all over it. Completing the resplendent ensemble was a bright orange snowmobile suit that had seen better days.

Due to the lack of heat in the rest of the plant, the shipping dock office and Hayssen machine room were very desirable places to be. On especially bitter days, guys would find any excuse they could to spend time in either place.

Because it was slightly larger, the shipping dock office was the popular place to go to get warm, particularly at break time. The body heat generated by six or seven people jammed in the small office during a ten-minute break often made it feel hot. In fact, one time it was so hot that Arno was on fire.


Perhaps I should explain what led to this combustible situation. On this particular afternoon, the temperature was below 0°, so there was a mad dash to the shipping dock office for the two o’clock break.

Included were such Koos luminaries as Munk Ekern, Jim Weber, Danny Fliess, Chuck Huck, Harry Leipzig, Butch Krienke, myself and of course, the irascible Arno. Except for Huck, we were all rather large men so the quarters were more cramped than usual and therefore very warm.

But that wasn’t why Arno was on fire.

Because it got so cold inside Koos, often times the forklifts were difficult to get started. It was common practice to spray starting fluid into the forklift’s carburetor, especially in the morning. A few squirts and the forklift would typically start right up.

That starting fluid was some very flammable stuff and with good reason - it had ether in it. Did I mention that the cans of starting fluid were stored in the shipping dock office? Well they were.

So on this bitterly cold day there were eight large bundled up human beings, five of whom were puffing on cigarettes, crammed in a six-foot by twelve-foot room when Arno decided to have some fun with the starting fluid.

Hey, I never said Arno was a rocket scientist.

To entertain himself, the foul-mouthed German sprayed a small amount of starting fluid on the arm of Chuck Huck’s jacket and lit it with his cigarette lighter, producing a small blue flame. Chuck slapped the flame out and asked Arno if he was out of his mind.

Stupid question, Chuck.

Arno continued playing his little game of pyrotechnics getting similar responses. While most of us were getting annoyed with Arno’s moronic antics, Danny Fliess was up to some shenanigans of his own. As Emeril Lagasse used to say, Danny “kicked it up a notch”.

Danny was soaking the leg of Arno’s bright orange snowmobile suit. When I say soaking, I mean he was marinating it. Everybody except Arno was aware of what was going on. He was oblivious to Danny’s incendiary chicanery.

When he had sufficiently saturated Arno with the combustible liquid, he signaled to the rest of us to head for the door of the office. As we scrambled to get out of harm’s way, Danny tossed a match onto Arno.

The startled Arno’s snowmobile suit burst into brilliant flames. Arno was on fire!

The rest of us stood outside of the shipping dock office with our mouths wide open, not quite believing what was happening. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or just get the hell out of there. But I wasn’t leaving until I saw what the fiery Arno was going to do next.

A normal person would have rushed out of the office, dropped to the warehouse floor and rolled in an attempt to extinguish the blaze. Not Arno. Nobody ever accused him of being normal. What took place next was arguably the idiotic thing I had witnessed in my eighteen years of existence.

Rather than try to put out the flames that were engulfing him, Arno ran after Danny with a can of starting fluid while cursing at the top of his lungs. Using his lighter to ignite it, he was using the can like a small flamethrower. Remember, Arno was still immersed in a fireball while doing this psychotic, not to mention dangerous, act.

Arno never caught Danny and eventually the flame on his snowmobile suit went out. Remember I mentioned that I never said Arno was a rocket scientist? Well, he obviously wasn’t, but that’s what makes reminiscing about him so much fun. This really did happen, it honestly did.

I hope that you enjoyed this Arno Anecdote. If you would like to read more about Arno Schubert and his hijinks, click on either Arno or Schubert in the Labels section below this blog.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Survivor 26.10

I’m flying solo tonight because Mary Beth is away on assingment, so here is Vag’s Evaluation for Survivor: Caramoan week ten:

Not sure what to say. This might have been one of the most satisfying episodes of Survivor in quite a while. I’m not talking about just this season either. I mean it was the most gratifying in a very long time, and on so many different levels.

First, let me say it made me quite happy by having both a Reward and Immunity Challenge. None of that Reward/Immunity Challenge combo garbage tonight. As an added bonus, both of the challenges were exciting and of a physical nature.

While two good challenges always please me, it was some of the other elements of tonight’s episode that made it so notable. And one of these elements occurred almost immediately.

The show opened with Dawn freaking out and crying. That in itself isn’t anything unusual. It happens all the time. What made this breakdown uncommon was that she was screaming for help, telling the others to hurry, to run.

Only thing, nobody did. Except for Brenda. She was the only one of the nine castaways that answered Dawn’s frantic cries for help. Yes, indeed. When Brenda heard Dawn was in peril, she took off running.

That is when tonight’s episode first became special.

As Brenda raced through the woods to get to the beach, the cameraman ran behind her to follow the action. The operative word is behind. Survivor hasn’t demonstrated such cinematographic excellence since RC ran along the beach last season. That cameraman deserves some sort of reward for capturing every undulating moment of Brenda’s mad dash to aid the panicking Dawn. If I wasn’t so giddy, I do believe I would have gotten misty.

When Brenda arrived, it seemed that Dawn had lost her retainer in the water and couldn’t go on unless she found it. She is sobbing and talking about pulling out of the game. Remember, Dawn is a bit of an emotional wreck.

Anyways, Brenda dives into the water to search for the grief-stricken Dawn’s choppers. This provides more camera time for Brenda’s lovely derrière, which in turn raises the episode’s excellence quotient. Unbelievably, she finds Dawns retainer and saves the day. Not only does Brenda possess a fine keester, she is a master diver!

Please don’t think it was only Brenda’s attractive caboose that made tonight’s episode so outstanding, there was plenty more.

Earlier I had mentioned the two challenges. The Reward Challenge split the Enil Edam tribe into two teams of five. The Purple team consisted of Reynold, Erik, Dawn, Cochran and Special Agent Phil. The Orange squad was made up of Eddie, Malcolm, Andrea, Sherri and Brenda.

Each member of the team had go through an obstacle course. Up a wall, down a slide and into a mud pit. When in the mud pit, they had to find a bag of balls and then crawl under a beam through a bed of dirty rice. Once across the finish line with your balls, the next member ran the course.

After all five members completed the course, the untied the bags to free their balls. At this point, they attempted to shoot the balls into a basket high upon a pole. The first team to sink 12 balls won Reward.

Want to know what they were playing for?

The winning team went to a nice resort that featured a beautiful pool. While at the resort, they were treated to a feast fit for a king. Beef, shrimp, cocktails… You name it, it was there.

The challenge wasn’t even close, it was a real butt-whipping. The Purple team demolished the Orange, 12-0 and was off to the resort. The only noteworthy thing that happened during the reward was SAP bathing in the posh swimming pool rather than using the showers provided. I believed Erik vomited in his mouth when he saw this.

Before you could blink, it was time for the Immunity Challenge. This was a toughie! The castaways had to run across a deck, jump into the water, grab a ring, pull themselves under the deck with a rope, climb out of the water and put the ring on a post. Twice. I said it was tough.

The challenge was run in two heats with the top two finishers of each heat competing in the finals for Immunity. Phil sat the challenge out, claiming a childhood incident had scarred him. It was all Probst could do to keep from calling him a pussy.

Reynold and Andrea finished first and second in the first heat, while Malcolm and my girlfriend… er, I mean Brenda, were the top two in the second heat. The finals were even tougher with the competitors having to place five rings on the post. It was Reynold and Malcolm neck and neck all the way until the very end with Reynold emerging victorious. This challenge had a definite WOW factor. Alas, Mary Beth would have loved it.

Not only was the challenge spectacular, Reynold’s victory put a major snag in Phil’s Stealth R Us alliance. They had targeted Reynold, but he now had Immunity. This development forced a change of plans. They decided to split the vote between Eddie and Malcolm. What they didn’t know is that Malcolm had a Hidden Immunity Idol from way back when. Ha!

But wait, it gets better!

Before Tribal Council, Dawn, Andrea, Eddie, Malcolm and Reynold are searching to see if there is ANOTHER Hidden Immunity Idol. AND THERE IS! Malcolm finds it right in front of Dawn and Andrea. This shakes up Stealth R Us a bit and they don’t even know about Malcolm’s Idol…

But they find out at Tribal Council.

The seven jaws of Stealth R Us collectively drop when Malcolm whips out the second Hidden Immunity Idol and hands it to Eddie. They are openly scrambling and whispering amongst themselves as Probst tries to conduct Tribal Council. Malcolm, with a big shit-eating grin on his face proudly announces, “The Three Amigos” are voting for Phil tonight.

And they do and he goes home because the dopes from Stealth R Us still voted for Eddie and Malcolm, even though the votes wouldn’t count because of the Immunity Idols. To his credit, Erik was the only one from Stealth that voted for Phil.

This was truly an episode for the ages. And to think, it all started with Brenda gracefully running to the beach.

Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Now Batting…

It was it was the third inning of the last game of the night at historic Finney’s West and I had seen enough. I just wanted this game to be over with as quickly as possible. It was supposed to have started at 9:00 o’clock, but thanks to an earlier slugfest and an extra inning affair, it didn’t start until after 9:30. It was hot and humid and the softball being played was hurting my eyes. These teams were playing like they didn’t want to be there and neither did I. I just wanted to go home.

Evidently I wasn’t the only one in the booth feeling that way.

Glen, my teenaged scoreboard operator, had been persistent in reminding me of how far behind the games were and how hot it was. His incessant whining had started right before 8:00 o’clock and there was no relief in sight. I just nodded my large sweaty head and mumbled, “I know, I know.” A lot.

When he started whimpering that he wanted to go home, I almost snapped. Almost, but not quite.

It was at this point that I realized that rather than throwing Glen bodily from the booth, I just had to suck it up and make the best of this miserable situation. Maybe, I should even try to set a good example for my pubescent sidekick.

Okay, let’s not get ridiculous, that wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I told Glen to quit his bellyaching and pay attention to the game. I thought to myself that I had better do the same thing. I needed to make this godforsaken game as enjoyable as possible. That was my plan and I was sticking to it.


My announcement of “Now batting for Super Sports, the veteran shortstop, Ron “Pigpen” Greb” drew a mild chuckle from the gathering of fans. That made me think that I just might be able to make these final four innings entertaining. All I needed was a little cooperation from the teams. Give me a little action, some material to work with.

And that’s exactly what I got.

With an 0-and-1 count on him, “Pigpen” Greb rifled a shot into right-center field. The outfielder charged the ball hard, determined to play it on one hop. He played it on one hop all right. Well, it might be more accurate to say the ball played him on one hop.

The sharply hit 12-inch ball took a wicked hop at the very last moment and caught the outfielder right in a sensitive area. A very sensitive area.

It got him in the junk.

Right in the nads.

A direct shot to the package.

For the Spanish audience, the cojones.

For my British friends, the bullocks.

Okay, he took one in the sack.

(I thought it might be in bad taste to say testicles.)

Anyways, upon impact, the outfielder dropped like a rifle had shot him. A hush immediately came over the previously enthusiastic crowd. Instantly, the ballpark had become completely subdued. So much for making the game lively and fun.

Then it happened. Maybe there was still hope.

Almost as quickly as he had fallen, the stricken player popped up as if nothing had happened. He looked fine. The crowd burst into cheers and applauded to show their relief.

No delay. No injury. Time for me to get back to being amusing. I knew just what I was going to do.

The moment I saw the outfielder up and seemingly ready to play, I shifted back into comedy mode. As the next hitter approached the batters box, I announced in an exaggerated high-pitched falsetto, “Now batting…”

Get it? The outfielder had gotten hit in the family jewels moments ago, so I was doing a funny high-pitched voice because that’s how guys (supposedly) talk after they get hit there.

Pretty funny, right? Right?

Well, it didn’t really matter if it was humorous or not, because as soon as I said “Now batting”, the outfielder dropped in a heap and couldn’t continue. He was done and had to be helped off the field.

I got quiet  a few dirty looks. I think the guy’s girlfriend even called me a jerk. It wasn’t pleasant. I think I finally left the park at 11:00 o’clock. That was after telling young Glen to shut up a couple of dozen more times.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Survivor 26.9

Here is the Official Bodacious Baldies Survivor: Caramoan Recap for week nine:

Mary Beth’s 2Cents: You know, sometimes when I'm watching Survivor I am awed by how even after all these seasons stuff happens that just floors me. The show will be rolling along with the usual aspects and then BOOM something will go awry or someone will do something completely stupid and I get a whole new sense of joy in loving this show. Tonight started as usual. Returning from Tribal Council, everyone is patting themselves on the back for getting rid of Corinne.

Reynold, who was in Corinne's alliance doesn't seem to care much that she's gone and actually sees it as a victory for him. Malcolm starts to take a hard look at who is left and whom he thinks might help him go further in the game. Special Agent Phil is off in his loopy land and inducts Sherri into the Stealth R Us alliance. Sherri just smiled and nodded and went along with it, as they all do, but later compared Phil to Shamar in that she thinks she'll be able to control him for votes later on.

At Reward Challenge, the tribe is split into two teams. They play a type of Diving Soccer where one person has to dive into the water while hurling a ball into a net and another person from the opposing team tries to block it. Right from the get-go this was an easy challenge. Even Mr. Nonathletic, Cochran managed to score a goal. The purple team won (Michael, Eddie, Erik, Reynold and Cochran) and they were whisked away to rappel down a waterfall and have a feast. I need to take a moment right here though to express how deeply grateful I am to the producers for the many lovely shots of Malcolm, standing shirtless on a pedestal, glistening with droplets of water. It was a glorious sight to be sure.


Meanwhile, at the waterfall feast, Reynold is basking in what he calls the “locker room guy mentality” and he urges the men at the table to “bro down and take the strong guys to the end”. Cochran, who surely has never been invited to the bro-parties in real life, shudders to think any of them would think he would ever find that proposition appealing on any level. Favorite line of the night is from Cochran who says, “I won't be engaging in any sort of masculine tomfoolery with these numbskulls!”

Back at camp, Malcolm is trying to schmooze the ladies into seeing things his way. He's chatting up Dawn and Sherri and trying to get them to align with him. Dawn always puzzles me. She's always somewhere between bursting into tears and running to tattle everything she knows to anyone that will listen. She just doesn't seem all that bright to me and now she wants to turn on my Malcolm.

Oh really??

Of course, when Special Agent Phil hears Malcolm's ideas he gets his pink undies in a bundle and decides that Malcolm should go. It was at this point that I had to hold back from punching him right in the head through my TV. Meanwhile, at the lagoon, Eddie and Andrea are canoodling and looking like a real couple except that Andrea is a little snake that can't be trusted. She's working the bikini pretty hard trying to get Eddie to spill some information.

At Immunity Challenge, each person is submerged under a metal grid and they have to stay there as the tide rolls in. This leaves them very little breathing space. Last one there, wins. Phil, he of the giant nose, is the first one out. One by one they drop out with Andrea and Brenda being the last two. Brenda cleverly makes some kind of snorkel out of her hands and she wins immunity.

Before Tribal Council, everyone starts scrambling. Malcolm goes to Andrea and tells her he's 100% with her so she tells him to vote for Reynold. Eddie goes to Andrea to get info but she's not giving it up that easy even though she is obviously attracted to the boy. They get into this long convoluted conversation that could rival Abbott and Costello's Who's On First by the time their done.

Eddie lets her know she might be a target, which sends her running to her alliance to change their votes from Malcolm to Michael because “Michael's easier” or something like that. Once they finally get to Tribal it's anybody's guess who's voting for whom. Cochran got in some classic eye rolling which they zoomed in on every time Phil started speaking.

Probst asks if anyone has an idol and wants to play it they should step up and… dah dah daaaaaaammm… Reynold steps up to do just that! BUT… dah dah daaaaaammmm… before he can do it Malcolm pleads with him to give him the idol because he's sure they're voting him off. Astonishingly, Reynold's hands him the idol! DAH DAH DAAAAAAAMMM!!! And, the best part? It was all for naught because they all voted off Michael anyway! HAHA!! That's right. One of the most dramatic Tribal Councils ever and it was all for nothing. I swear. You cannot make this stuff up!

Vag’s Evaluation: Okay, can someone please tell me what just happened? I’m confused. So confused. And from the looks on the faces of some of the castaways during Tribal Council, I wasn’t the only one confused. The extremely cerebral Cochran looked confused. The suddenly slimy Malcolm looked confused. Air-headed Andrea looked confused. But, then again she always does. Dawn looked confused, bewildered and a bit constipated. And finally, Michael looked confused and pissed. He was voted off.

Again I ask, what just happened?

The show started off innocently enough with some uncharacteristic piano music gently playing in the background as Eddie hit on Andrea. Then the Specialist (Phil), while wearing his smart girl glasses, told Sherri she was a hottie and dubbed her “Tenacity”. Evidently she was officially inducted into Stealth R Us.

After that they moved directly to a Reward Challenge. That’s right, we were being treated to two challenges this evening. It was a dandy. They picked teams, schoolyard style. The Orange team consisted of Brenda, Andrea, Malcolm, the Specialist and Dawn. The Purple team featured Eddie, Erik, Reynold, Michael and Cochran. Alas, Sherri, the newest member of Stealth R Us was not chosen.

Basically the challenge was an above water version of water polo with the goalies perched on a stand in front of the net. The shooters took running leaps off a pier while attempting to toss the ball into the goal. Malcolm and Michael tended goal for their respective teams. The challenge was tied at three when Erik of the Purple team scored the deciding goal.

Want to know what they were playing for?

The triumphant members of the Purple team were whisked off to a beautiful waterfall. Once there, they rappelled down to the bottom of waterfall where they enjoyed a scrumptious lunch. Reynold, noticing the all-guy locker room atmosphere, declared, “Let’s Bro down and take all guys to the end!” To this Cochran wrinkled his sunburnt nose and responded, “I don’t want to be engaging in any masculine tomfoolery with these numbskulls.”

I love that spaz.

Between the Reward and Immunity Challenges, the skullduggery (and confusion) began. Malcolm confided his secret plans with Sherri, who promptly squealed to Andrea and Dawn. They in turn, like good little soldiers, took the findings to the Specialist. Before I could figure out what he was babbling, Eddie and Andrea were making goo-goo eyes at each other again.

This is where I started getting confused.

While my head was beginning to hurt, the Immunity Challenge was starting. It was a classic. The eleven castaways got in the water beneath a grate and had to remain there while the tide came in. Eventually the water would rise above the grate and people would start to drown. Not really, but close. The last person to come out from under the grate wins Immunity.

Here is the order the castaways bowed out: The Specialist, Sherri, Erik, Dawn, Malcolm, Michael, Eddie, Cochran, Reynold and Andrea with the lovely Brenda winning. I swelled with pride when Probst put the Immunity Necklace around my newly appointed girlfriends slender neck. I actually shouted YES! Not as loud as when Corinne got voted off last week, but I did indeed shout.

It was at this point when I became totally confused. I had no idea what was going on. Malcolm was making deals all over the place. Reynold was threatening Dawn. Dawn started crying, which made Andrea cry. At one point everyone was scheming except Brenda and Erik. Brenda because she had Immunity and Erik because he is a total ignoramus.

Things didn’t improve at Tribal Council. Eddie referred to Sherri as the Stealth R Us puppet, while the Specialist kept talking about the strategy he used when he was on Redemption Island. This amused Probst greatly. This is when the confused looks started popping up.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get anymore more convoluted, when Probst asked if anyone had a Hidden Immunity Idol and wanted to play it, Malcolm convinced Reynold to give him his. What a dolt! This oozed of irony because Malcolm voted for Reynold to go home! In the end, Michael ended up being voted off and called the rest of the tribe turkeys as he departed.

Again, I have to ask, what just happened?

Oh well, from the coming attractions it looks like Dawn comes unhinged. Better get ready for another sob fest. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Some Wit From The Booth

 During the golden age of Kenosha softball, I was usually announcing games at Finney's West when I wasn’t managing the 400 Club. On average, I was in the “booth” for 18 to 24 games a week. All that time up there provided for countless memories. Based on comments made on the Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame facebook page, the gang from the booth has produced a few memories of their own. It must have been our wit.

Over the years, Finney’s West had quite an eclectic cast of characters behind the microphone. To the best of my knowledge, this is the roster of announcers:  Bob “Jocko” Harris, Jill Perry, Joe Perry, Paul “PJ” Johnson, Jim Webber, Randy Donais, Jason Crueziger, Leon Rosko and yours truly.

Not everyone in this group was witty. Most were content to keep it close to the vest, not wanting to offend anyone. Oh sure, they would throw out an occasional nickname or two for the players, but nothing too outrageous.

Then there were those who never met a sarcastic remark they didn’t like - primarily me, Leon and Randy. Nothing was off limits as far as we were concerned. No one was safe from our acerbic tongues. No one. Not even each other.

For instance, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to hear, “Attention, attention please! Now heading for the blue rooms down the right field line! Leon Rosko!”

For the uninformed, the blue rooms were the Port-O-Potties, those nasty portable bathrooms. No one really wanted to have the entire ballpark crowd made aware that they were on their way to relieve themself. It was just a service we provided. Even for one another.

Not everything was as mean spirited. Some of the nicer phrases were:

“Nine – Nine – the German game.” This was used when announcing the score at the end of an inning of a 9-9 game. Okay, I didn’t say they were all hilarious.

“Leading off in the top of the turd…” A transitional phrase that could be used at the end of the second inning. A trifle sophomoric, but the younger crowd loved it. 

“A tissue paper thin lead.” Used during a tied or one-run game. This announcing tool required the word tissue to be pronounced, “Tiss-ewe” for maximum effect.

“It’s the fifth, that’s right, the fifth” Often imitated, never duplicated, this was easily the most popular tagline used by announcers at Finney’s West. PJ tried “It’s the filth, that’s right, the fifth”, but it failed miserably.

“Laser beam!” or “A leather-seeking missile!” These were used when someone made a sensational grab of an extremely hard hit line drive that robbed the batter of a certain base hit. The racier and seldom used, “Nice snatch” was only used in games played after 8:00 pm and never during a women’s game. Never.

“The fine-fielding catcher…” This sarcastic phrase was no way meant to be complimentary. It was used during player introductions. You see, in slow-pitch softball, the person playing catcher is typically either a great hitter or a relative of the sponsor. They are never known for their fielding prowess. Therein lies the irony.

Earlier I mentioned that players receiving nicknames was commonplace, but they weren’t the only ones. The umpires at Finney’s West were also blessed with clever sobriquets. Those without a personalized nickname simply got, “Behind home plate, balls and strikes are his business, mister…”

Those whose personality merited something more always received a creative nickname. Here are a few of the best:

“With his George Hamilton-like good looks, George Becker”

“The cerebral one, Jerry Herrick”

“Uncle Dan’s favorite nephew, Rob Travanty”

“The dean of umpires at Finney’s West, Dick Cairo”

“The distinguished one, Ernie Pascucci”

“Jeff “No-Nicks” Pascucci” Jeff didn’t like nicknames. At all.

Recently, Doug Hoff reminded of an all-time great phrase that came from the booth. It was first used during the Memorial Day Big Men’s Class E Tournament. This was one of the biggest tournaments at Finney’s West and Busch Beer was the proud sponsor. And I take full credit for creating it.

Or maybe I should say, I take full blame for creating it.

It was Friday and the last game of the evening had just finished. As was the custom, I gave the final score, reminded the teams what time their next games were and wished everyone a good night. That’s when I decided to make this impromptu advertisement for our sponsor.

“Please don't drink and drive, but if you must drink and drive, make sure it’s Busch Beer!”

The roar of laughter inspired me to repeat the ad Saturday night. And Sunday night. And after the championship game on Monday afternoon. And a whole bunch of times in between. And for years to come.

Today that “ad” might be frowned upon and discouraged. It might even be forbidden. But back in the day it was funny and it made people laugh. Just like a lot of stuff that came out of that booth. We were witty.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Survivor 26.8

Here is the Official Bodacious Baldies Survivor: Caramoan Recap for week eight: 

Well, hell's bells! Just as I was thinking that Survivor was starting to get soft, they pull off an episode like tonight's that restores my faith in the show once again. What a great episode! Initially, it started with the usual chitter chatter as Bikal returns to camp from the last Tribal Council. Mike is happy he was spared and Corinne is happy she saved him and expresses how pleased she is with herself. Crazy ol' Phillip pulls everyone aside to tell them how he “threw” the last challenge in a last minute decision just so they could go to Tribal and get rid of Julia.


Exactly. No one is buying this bull and they all question Phil's sanity once again. The fact that they're still questioning is amazing since he is clearly unhinged. Corrine describes him as “cuckoo for cocoa puffs!” It was about this time that I noticed poor Cochran. Now I like Cochran. He's smart and funny but, man oh man, there has never been another player that looks worse than Cochran on this show.

After 19 days, he has taken on the appearance of a nebbishy Neanderthal, but without the inherent survival skills. He's a redheaded mess with a scraggly beard and a long sleeved dress shirt that I can almost smell through the TV. He looks haggard and I'm amazed that he is so much healthier than he actual looks! Having said that, the rest of this show is really all Cochran, all the time! More about that later…

Tonight we saw the two tribes merge becoming one tribe called Enil Edam – which though sounding exotic – is really just Madeline spelled backwards. Madeline is Malcolm's mom's name so he wanted to give her a shout out. No one else knows and they all went along with it!

As everyone eats more food and puts on their new green buffs, the wrangling for position starts right away. Phillip goes to Andrea to make sure she is on board with his weird self. He has one of the best lines of the night when he tells her “When you're laying in bed tonight pretend you are Boston Rob. That's what I do!” Wow… ol' Phillip really drank that Boston Rob Kool-Aid, didn't he?

Corinne starts wooing Malcolm and making big plans to take out her old alliance with an all-new and improved alliance of Malcolm, Eddie, Reynold, Michael and Dawn. More about that later… because (DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!) this is where I got super excited and realized that this episode was going to be great!

They brought back a real Immunity Challenge! An eating challenge!

I haven't seen one of these on Survivor in ages. The players are given some really disgusting things to eat and the first three in each “heat” who get it down move on to the next heat. Finally! Even Cochran was elated about this one saying that it might improve his love life if he can eat something gross. I'm not sure of his reasoning, but hey, who am I to judge!

In the first heat, there are two groups that have to get through and they have to eat live beetle larvae. Disgusting! These things were as big as a grown man's thumb and covered in slime and spiky things. In the first round, Andrea comes in first, followed by Malcolm and then Eddy. In the second group, Cochran comes in first, followed by Phillip and then Mike.

Those six go on to Round Two which consists of a large plate of “shipworms”. Shipworms, Probst explains, are the “termites” of the sea and they eat through the wooden parts of ships. On the plate they make a runny dark vomitus mess! Malcolm comes in first, followed by Eddy… Cochran? Cochran, it turns out, is tearing up this competition!

Round Three is Balut. Balut is a Philippine tradition of a partially cooked duck embryo in the shell. When it's cracked open you see formed part of the actual duck (beak, legs, eyeballs, and feathers). It's gross. I know… I have seen this up close and personal and the smell cannot even be described. Eddy cannot take it and the winner of this round is Malcolm and… COCHRAN!! Malcolm calls him the “ginger Kobayashi!” referring to the well-known competitive eater.

The last round is a large plate of pig brains. Malcolm does what he can to hold his own but Cochran is an official eating machine and he takes the victory easily! He then does this endearing but nerdy victory dance in front of everyone. Yes, this was a classic competition! And just when I didn't think this episode could get better – it did!

Everyone was happy for Cochran but the scrambling began right away at camp. Phillip wants to split the vote, Corinne does not. Eddie and Reynold think this is their chance. Corinne runs to Dawn to set up a plan to get rid of Sherri. Dawn, who doesn't want to piss away her game like she did last time, runs right to Cochran who clearly sees Corinne's actions as foolish because it would diminish their numbers. He runs to Andrea and they figure out a new plan so they enlist Philip and no one is more surprised than wicked Corinne when she is the victim of a classic Survivor blindside! The look on her face! PRICELESS!

Oh yeah, this is the Survivor I know and love and have been missing for some time now! Welcome back, baby!

Did anyone hear me yell “YES!” three times beginning at 7:54pm CDT this evening? Well, I did and it was great. Man, I enjoy this show. It usually makes feel good and sometimes it can cause me to smile. Tonight’s episode accomplished both and it also gave me occasion to yell, “YES!” Not once. Not twice. No, tonight was a three “YES!” show. Why the cause for my elation, for my jubilation? Even if you didn’t get a chance to watch, after reading Mary Beth’s 2Cents you are fully aware that the annoyingly evil Corinne was blindsided tonight. And the look on her face was delicious!


The first thing I wrote on my pad tonight was “Corinne is making me sick!” She is so irritating. Then I was briefly reminded that Special Agent Phil (SAP) is full of shit. After that we had another reminder that Corinne “loves to play with a gay” and evidently, Michael fulfills this need for her. She is so very annoying.

Then we had to deal with Dawn crying and acting spastic. Again. Sheesh! Finally, it was Erik saying “awesome” and “cool” a whole bunch of times. He really freaked out when he saw the “cool dudes” on the boat coming to pick up the Gota tribe for the merge with the bunch from Bikal.

When the tribes merged they were treated a big old basket of food. While they were feasting, the castaways discussed a name for the tribe. When SAP came up with Stanley, everyone looked at him like he was weird. And they were right. He is.

They finally agreed on Enil Edam. The slightly air-headed Andrea thought it meant “New Beginning”, but actually it was Malcolm’s mom’s name, Madeline, spelled backwards. It’s amazing what a bright person can make pea-brained people believe. The only person who complained about the new moniker was the irritating Corrine. She said it had too many syllables. Honest, she did. I told you she was obnoxious.

The Immunity Challenge was a Survivor Classic – Eating Gross Local Delicacies!

The first three rounds whittled the field down to Cochran, Malcolm and Eddie. They had to extract duck embryos from their shells and gobble them down. Unfortunately for Eddie, he bit on the beak right away and was puking feathers and duck stuff everywhere. Cochran and Malcolm had no problems wolfing theirs down.

That put them in the finals. The tall, good-looking hunk vs. the ginger-haired pipsqueak dweeb for immunity. Their entrée? A nice slab of pig brain. As soon as Probst shouted go, the pair quickly slid the gelatinous chunk of swine gray matter into their mouths. In a matter of seconds they both choked it down with Cochran opening his empty mouth just ahead of Malcolm. Having won immunity, Cochran did a dorky little celebratory dance.

I’m really starting to like that spaz.

The same can’t be said for Corinne. Back at camp, after the challenge, she immediately started arguing with SAP. When their argument proved fruitless, she went and started plotting with Malcolm. I said to myself, “Self, this isn’t good, Mary Beth’s boyfriend is hanging around with the wrong people.”

And it’s true. Malcolm was starting to get cocky and smug. Just like Corinne. When they finished scheming, Corinne told Malcolm that she couldn’t stand SAP and that “I want to throat punch him every day.” Nice chick, huh?

When Corinne told Dawn the evil plan she and Malcolm had come up with, Dawn instantly snitched to Cochran. Cochran promptly ran to Andrea and filled her in. She made a beeline to SAP, who then informed Sherri of what was happening. By the time the headed to Tribal Council, Stealth R Us had devised a plan to counteract the scheme of Corinne and Malcolm.

Tribal Council was a thing of beauty! With each vote Probst read for Sherri, the arrogant smirk on Corinne’s face grew wider. When it reached five I thought she was burst with self-satisfaction. She was almost giddy.

Then it happened. The look on her face was about to drastically change in a steady and very deliberate fashion.

Probst read, “Corinne”. Then, “Corinne”. Again, he said, “Corinne”. A fourth time he called out, “Corinne”. When he read, “Corinne” for the fifth time, I yelled “YES!” for the first time. “Corinne” for the sixth time got my second, “YES!” The seventh and final “Corinne” got my final and loudest “YES!”

I was so very happy. Still am. “YES!” Until next time…from the booth.