Beware the ides of March?

Ides of March? Satanic figures tempting would-be-New Twain cover - digitalfamous authors on a Nicaraguan jungle river trip filled with sharks, gators & other dangers to both their souls and human history? What could go wrong?

Throw caution to the wind and join me on the journey. Grab a copy of Mark Twain & The River of Timeless Temptation – now on pre-sale til March 15 in digital form.

In 1866 a young Mark Twain went on his first international trip, crossing Central America through Nicaragua on a popular route used by 49ers and others before the Panama Canal construction. His real-life travelogues included a mysterious companion named Mr. Brown. But what Clemens didn’t describe was Brown’s satanic purpose in taking them on a journey back in time, meeting other famous and local travelers in the Rio San Juan area including Cornelius Vanderbilt, future Lord Nelson, pirate Henry Morgan and even Christopher Columbus. Gathering experiences and story ideas, the future-great-author also has opportunities to disrupt the narrative of time. Will Sammy trade his soul for fame & fortune? Or will he rewrite history forever?

Mark_Twain__The_Riv_Cover_for_KindleFind out here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XF37J6H… Hopefully soon in print and possibly audio!

 

Alt facts on how Trump bought the Minnesota Twins

Calvin-Cover-225x335 (1)Shocking new information emerged the other night as I re-listened to some of the interview tapes I used for writing Calvin: Baseball’s Last Dinosaur. One of my favorites was a conversation with Harvey Mackay, the self-proclaimed hero who, in 1984, led a ticket purchase drive that legally kept the Twins in Minnesota.

On a whim, I ran the reels (remember this came from the 1980’s) backwards and couldn’t believe my ears. There, clear as a cellophane window in an envelope, was not the voice of Harvey Mackay but an even better known one – that of another millionaire man-of-the-people.

“Harvey, I tell you this is gonna be really yuuuuuuuge,” he said, sounding like he was the pussy that had grabbed the canary. “We can pull this off and nobody will ever be the wiser. Or when they finally figure it out we’ll be on to the next big one. Always keep ’em answering the last one – and neeeeeeeever show your tax returns!”

“So let me get this straight,” answered Harvey. “You first wanna buy like thousands of tickets from Calvin so that he’ll be contractually obligated to keep the Twins playing at the  in Minnesota.

trump-hack-in-a-trucker-hat“That’s right – at least for a while. I got some Russian buddies who’ll help bankroll some of it and we can get those sucker Twins fans to pony up for the civic cause. Ha! They’ll fill the Metrodome – well, maybe not because who’d wanna see baseball there – and we’ll box Calvin in.”

“But can’t he already break the lease based on losing money each of the last three years? How can we box him in?” answered Mackay, sounding unsure.

“Harvey, you gotta think big if you’re gonna swim with the sharks! If you scream it out mackay1loud enough people will fall for it and love you. Heck, I could practically shoot somebody on the streets of New York and get away with it,” said the familiar voice on the other end of the conversation. “You’ll be their savior and what’s Calvin gonna do if everybody else believes it? He won’t wanna run out on people that he thinks support him. He’ll be forced to sell to me.”

“So the Twins won’t go to Tampa or somewhere?” asked Mackay.

“Well, only if I take them there, although I’m thinking more about having a sideshow act alongside my Atlantic City casinos,” said the mysterious yet familiar voice. “I could add them to my towers and hotels. Who’s gonna trump that package?”

mackay2“Wow, beware the naked man selling shirts!” answered Mackay. “I like it but aren’t Minnesotans gonna put up a fight. Some baseball bigwigs will be worried about gambling. Congress might even get involved and threaten to take away the antitrust exemption.”

“Awwwwww…. I can buy off a few politicians. And these fly-over-land podunks would yowl awhile, but who cares?” said the mega-mogul. “It’s not like I’m ever gonna run for President and need them to think I care about them.

“Being at the top of the National Pastime is enough to make it worth the sacrifice. I’m going to put out the biggest, the best team money can buy. I’ll put Steinbrenner and the Yankees to shame. When I turn things around everyone will love me no matter where my team plays. First the Twins, then Cooperstown,” he added. “Can you imagine what I could do to that place?”

“Just also remember that spot in the envelope salesman hall-of-fame” you promised me,” Mackay said. “And we keep this little conversation between us, right? I still gotta live here in this Cold Omaha.”

“Kiddo, my lips are sealed with your best glue. You know what a quiet, introspective guy I am,” said the other voice. “Now what’s Calvin’s phone number? I’ll invite him out to New York, a little wine and dine, he’ll never know what hit him. You can stay here and reap all the ridiculous credit for saving the Twins. Write a couple books, start a newspaper column about selling how successful you are compared to the losers who love you. America loves that stuff.”

nixoncheckersAt this point the tape inexplicably had an 18 and a half minute gap before another voice came on briefly. I would have sworn it was Richard Nixon saying something about taking his dog Checkers with him to a Washington Senators game where he was gonna have a good talk with that Clark Griffith fellow and his nephew Calvin.

Then inexplicably, the recording suddenly caught fire, burst of flame and was consumed in just a few seconds. All the evidence of this incredibly revealing conversation was up in smoke faster than I could say Alternative Facts. It was almost like I’d never had that taped interview with Harvey Mackay because he ducked my phonecalls and requests to learn about his heroic efforts for almost a year.

Ah well, we all know that bumble-brained Calvin Griffith would never have been able to figure out the game of a Sid Hartman proclaimed “genius” like Mackay. His cheapness and all-consuming interest in getting the highest dollar would have made him putty in the hands of a Donald Trump. He certainly wouldn’t have had enough loyalty to Minnesota to take less money and sell the team to a local banker who Calvin believed would keep the Griffith family involved with baseball operations.

Sometimes facts just get in the way of a good story, although they didn’t here. Making it all up is so much easier and fun.

Calvin-Cover-225x335 (1)Yes, I’ve learned my lesson and so should you. Don’t trust what your lying eyes see. Listen to what the really successful guys say, especially when they tell you how successful they are. If that doesn’t seem to work, just try playing the tape backwards.

Above all, don’t read this book (right) that claims to have non-alternative facts on these subjects.

 

Find the book at Amazon!

 

 

 

 

Jumping into the historical fiction abyss!

“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.” twain-book-cover

Mark Twain’s words give me some hope for my entry into the world of historical fiction, since I certainly have experience forgetting things.

For better or worse, I am remembering Sammy Clemens by hopefully adding to the assortment of novels that you may find of interest in this New Year. I’m choosing a somewhat unusual publishing approach and will explain that in a bit. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1SYEXU0JB8V93

First, some historical background.

Mark Twain & The River of Timeless Temptations was inspired by young Sam Clemens’ newspaper accounts of an 1866 trip across Nicaragua – on the Rio San Juan. Prior to the Panama Canal that river was the preferred connection between oceans. It had been so for centuries, visited by characters ranging from Cornelius Vanderbilt to pirate Henry Morgan to Lt. Horatio Nelson and even Christopher Columbus among other empire builders. It remains a controversial place, with current talk of a Chinese-backed canal to be hacked through environmentally-sensitive jungle that is home to indigenous peoples.

My retelling of Twain’s river journey has a twist that includes a mysterious traveling companion of his own creation, a Mr. Brown, who I have taking Twain on a trip back in time. It’s all part of a proposed Faustian bargain. The future great author gets plenty of writing fodder and is clearly tempted. However, Sammy Clemens proves to be more than a handful for his supernaturally-empowered soul pilot.

But, I go too far. You can potentially get the whole story – free!

Just visit this website  https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1SYEXU0JB8V93

It’s run by the Amazon Scout program, where a sample of the book is posted. If you indicate that you’d like to see the entire novel, and Mark Twain & The River of Timeless Temptations is chosen for publication, you’ll be sent a link for free download!

twain-book-coverAs I said, this is an unusual publishing approach, and frankly the competition is very stiff with many popular stories about vampires, zombies, heaving bosoms, etc. So, I’m working on backup plans just in case they may not offer the free download.

So there you have it, my shameless pitch. I hope you’ll find the book and concept worthwhile. I’d be honored to have you spread the word among friends, family, enemies, aliens or anyone else in the online universe.

 

To quote another American cultural icon, Pedro of Napoleon Dynamite –

“Vote for me and all your dreams will come true.”

Again, here’s the link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1SYEXU0JB8V93

Riding into the sunset

 

Threads of history accompanied me on a recent drive home from a Thanksgiving chief-wahoopilgrimage to visit my mother in Ohio. Symbols of our country’s continuing struggle to relate to its origins and first citizens seemed to keep hitting me in the face more than early winter snow flurries.

World Series fever has cooled in Ohio and, with it, attention to the Indians in favor of the NBA champ Cavaliers and Ohio State football fortunes. But left over images of grinning Chief Wahoo show up in various commercial establishments and public places with little recognition of their negative connotations Native Americans.

Most Buckeyes seem oblivious to the racial stereotype and harm it causes despite occasional flare-ups in public consciousness. Few could ever tell you anything about Louis Sockalexis, who is often cited as the father of the Indians’ team name despite the fact that he played baseball in Cleveland less than two full seasons at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s a convenient “honor” that in reality just disguises cynical marketing decisions.

Trump signs remained proudly on display on farm silos as I drove across the Midwest listening to radio broadcasts describing clashes at Standing Rock. The contrast and seeming disconnect is reflected in public opinion surveys showing great sympathy for the protesters trying to stop an oil pipe line in North Dakota. That state has finally done away with its offensive Fighting Sioux name, so perhaps there is hope.

chief-illiniwek-dance But driving by the University of Illinois campus I was reminded of the ongoing battle over the “Fighting Illini” name along with popular calls for return of a fictional “Chief.” He is usually played by a white student and for decades ago has paraded around as a mascot at athletic events. It is difficult to unlearn false histories in a culture that too often doesn’t seem interested in learning from hard lessons of the past.

History certainly lives on in Hannibal, Missouri in obvious ways for obvious reasons. Mark Twain’s hometown understandably seeks to reap the rewards of thousands of tourists annually – most seeking the nostalgia and humor associated with the famed author. The community retains in delightful ways much of the small-town feel portrayed in accounts of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

At one end of the town, the Mark Twain Cave remains a popular tourist attraction – injun-joe-murdereroffering visitors a sample of the dark threatening place made famous by Tom Sawyer & Becky Thatcher’s encounter with Injun Joe. The fictional heroes would both escape but the ugly, malevolent, murdering Indian would meet justice and a horrible death at the conclusion of Twain’s novel.

At the other end of town, in a much-less visited graveyard is the marker for the very real “Injun” Joe Douglass, who died in 1923 at the age of 102. That he outlived Sam Clemens and was well-regarded enough in town to have his own neighborhood named after him is a forgotten historical fact. Douglass’ tombstone focuses on his self-description of being an “honest man, never harming a person and living an honorable life.” However it is Twain’s Injun Joe that lives on in the American psyche.

mark-twainClemens was clearly a product of his time and particularly of longstanding stories regularly conveyed by his mother, Jane, about a family massacre by Indians on the Kentucky frontier mere decades earlier. Almost primal fears were renewed in the Mississippi River Valley by the 1832 Black Hawk War, shortly before Clemens’ birth. That Native Americans were already largely driven out of Missouri and facing genocide wasn’t generally part of white consciousness. The few half-breed Indians left in the area that was once their home were now regarded as dangerous, untrustworthy vagrants – a la Injun Joe.

Twain’s later move west into more conflict-strewn Indian Country didn’t improve his injun-joe-gravestoneopinion of Native Americans. Indeed, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, the same year as Custer’s bloody ending at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Despite occasional nods to “noble savage” myths, the author seemed as clueless as most white Americans as to the root causes of the terrorism of their era. One could imagine them asking “Why do they hate us?” of those whose entire way of life they were destroying.

Curiously, while Clemens’ racial stereotypes of Native Americans never seemed to change, he clearly underwent a consciousness-raising regarding Black Americans. Again the influence of his mother was apparently key in teaching him early lessons about the essential humanity of a young black slave in their household. The memory grew in Twain’s brain until it ultimately found birth in Huck Finn’s courageous decision to aid Jim’s flight downriver to freedom.

Perhaps there is hope for all of us to learn and grow. But there is still obviously quite a ways to go in our collective transformation about issues of race relations and shared humanity.

I was reminded of that arriving home in Minnesota just as another controversy hit around possible removal of Civil War paintings from a newly-remodeled State Capitol Building. At issue are classic nineteenth century paintings of dramatic battle scenes and others of Native Americans subserviently accepting treaties and other accommodations to white “progress” as they ride off into the sunset of history.minnesota-seal

Traditionalists argue that historical preservation requires the paintings remain in place where Capitol designers intended. Moreover the Civil War scenes, if bloody, describe a victory over human bondage. Critics argue that the images, particularly of Native Americans, convey a limited and often false narrative of history. Having them continue to dominate such central places of our communal life only glorifies pain and makes it that much more difficult to move on to a more positive equitable world.

I tend to agree with the latter approach, even while believing all history needs to be preserved if only to help us remember hard lessons. But it is now time for Injun Joe and Chief Wahoo to ride off into the sunset. Hopefully Standing Rock will be a history lesson we can truly give thanks for.

   Find the book at Amazon! Calvin-Cover-225x335 (1)

 

 

 

Foul balls and fair play

cubs-championship trump-hack-in-a-trucker-hat Argument could be made over which was the most unlikely phenomenon of November 2016 – the election of Donald Trump as President or the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Time will tell, of course. But there may be some positive lessons from the latter event that carry into our collective political world going forward. Hopefully The Donald’s one-time interest in owning the Minnesota Twins will yet translate into a true interest in the well-being of all potential fans of the national pastime, regardless of race, sex or creed.

No doubt the recent political season was full of foul balls and sometimes foul language that even an old barnstorming ballplayer might have found embarrassing. Bull Durham’s Nuke LaRouche looked cerebral and genteel compared to some of our presidential candidate performances. Sure baseball has sign stealing, beanings and even occasional bench-clearings, but almost always they turn into more dustups than brawls.

Which brings me to my point: The game must go on according to rules that ultimately benefit both teams or all sides. We also might mock or even appear to hate umpires but we also recognize their necessity. Imagine if either the Cubs or Indians had refused to accept rulings on the field during the Series? Even worse if they had refused to accept instant replay’s best empirical evidence (climate change parallels?) what might it have meant for our ability to continue the national pastime?

Our body politic might benefit from remembering some of the same messages going forward. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that were designed to benefit us all. We have government and a judicial system designed to serve various purposes, but most importantly to be an umpire making calls that are fair to all and let the game continue.

Interestingly, baseball has certainly grown to accept diversity amongst players on the field. The recent Major League playoffs saw an encouraging mix of Asian, Latino, black, and white stars. Meanwhile the premiere of a new fictional TV series focusing on the rise of a female pitcher gave hope that another barrier may soon be broken.

chief-wahooBaseball, like America, does have flaws and room for improvement e.g. getting rid of Cleveland’s “Wahoo” logo. The Major Leagues in general, again like the entire nation, need to continue confronting racial, economic and gender divisions that often keep a full diversity of fans from our ballparks. Calvin Griffith’s awkward (at best) Waseca speech description of how blacks weren’t coming to ballgames at Washington D.C.’s old Griffith Stadium did convey some truth that still continues.

Calvin got badly, and perhaps correctly, burned for his remarks and for other shortcomings in addressing baseball’s racial divides. But I believe even dinosaurs can evolve and I heard and saw very different attitudes from him in his later life. Maybe there is hope that even President Donald Trump can rise above his grievious remarks about women, gays, handicapped and various persons of colors and faith.

It may now seem like a lot to expect. Many are understandably planning resistance strategies to possible abuses of power. No one should accept a “rigged” game.

But all of us, including people who voted for Trump, also have a shared stake in making sure the game goes forward according to a level playing field that benefit us all. True fans of the game and our country remember that fairness doesn’t belong to just one team and cheaters who justify their actions by comparing them to other infractions are still just cheaters. Privileged members of both political parties, have clearly sometimes forgotten that – ringing up strikes against their credibility.Calvin-Cover-225x335 (1)

They also forget an ongoing basic baseball rule at their own peril: Three strikes and you’re out.

Find the book at Amazon!

 

If Trump had bought the Minnesota Twins?

me.boatOne of the interesting things about revisiting something you wrote years ago is realizing how something that you gave relatively minor attention then has assumed new importance with the passing of time.I could argue that is generally true about former Twins owner Calvin Griffith’s life. But what I’m really focused on now, as is much of the world, is another character by the name of Donald Trump who in the early 1980’s dramatically came into the Twins owner’s life. He wanted to come into every Minnesotans life at the same time.

Calvin-Cover-225x335 (1)In particular, the Donald was wooing “Baseball’s Last Dinosaur” in hopes of becoming the owner of the Minnesota Twins. He invited Calvin to New York in late 1983 to wine and dine him. It was a time when the Griffith family was finally coming to grips with the reality that its ma and pa operation could no longer successfully compete in the era of free agentry, arbitration and corporation-owned baseball teams.

Calvin was not born with Bernie Sanders’ class consciousness. But he was born as a street kid son of an alcoholic in Montreal and never forgot it or stopped being impressed with how the rich and famous lived.

“I had the thrill of my life going through Mr. Trump’s towers there and seeing all those million dollar condos he had,” remembered Calvin with almost child-like innocence. “Whoooeee! It was so superb it was unbelievable. Johnny Carson has a condo there.”

Even more unbelievable would be the financial discussion that followed, with Trump making an offer reported at $50 million. Today that would be almost $123 million.

“It was a lot of money no question about it,” said Calvin. “I never thought I’d get in a room talking about the kind of money he was talking about. It was more than (Carl) Pohlad ever offered, definitely.”

Griffith was referring to the Twin Cities banker to whom in the next year he would eventually sell the Twins – to his later regret. More on that later. But in 1983, Calvin had his choice of bidders and Trump had definitely gotten his attention.

Twins attorney Peter Dorsey, who went along for the meeting, confirmed Trump’s serious interest in the Twins as well as the bravado with which we’ve all become familiar.

“We met up in his office and he said, ‘I’ve got something that a lot of other people have and I don’t have something that a lot of people do have. I don’t have a board of directors or shareholders. And I do have a helluva lot of money,” said Dorsey repeating Trump’s sales pitch.

When the two sides disagreed on a price, the multimillionaire real estate developer got the chance to prove his wealth, recalled Dorsey. “Just like that he said ‘I’ll up it $3 million.’ Just like that. In a second.”

Imagine for a second what could have been if Trump had succeeded in gaining ownership of the Minnesota Twins. Control of a Major League franchise might have given him a forum bigger than The Apprentice. Think Calvin was controversial, guess again. How would The Donald have handled the Players Union, Cuban asylum seekers, female sportswriters in the lockerroom, Reggie Jackson?

trump-hack-in-a-trucker-hatTrump’s day-to-day unfiltered egotism versus Minnesota Nice would also have been epic. Of course he would almost certainly have sought immediate glory. It might have meant infusions of cash to bring star power to the Twins. It might also have meant impulsive decisions that endangered the young core Calvin’s organization had developed and which would bring a World Series championship to the Metrodome in 1987.

Of course my guess is that Trump would never have been able to handle those gloomy, indoor confines for long. In fact, I seriously doubt he would have long found much of interest in the Midwest. He never identified long-term plans, but Trump’s Florida financial interests suggest that the Twins might have soon been not been coming north from Spring Training. Or maybe he would have just ripped the roof off the insiders’ stadium.

Hard to say where it all might have gone. But it could have been really huge.

However something kept Calvin from leaping at Trump’s offer – tempting though it clearly was – to the likely benefit of Minnesotans today. Despite his initial awe, the Twins owner was no pushover. He knew he had plenty of options, with hungry cities like Tampa lining up, as well as potential Twin Cities buyers.

I think it was basically Calvin’s loyalty, along with maybe a bit of leftover guilt from moving the Senators out of Washington D.C., that tipped the scales against Trump – along with anyone not from Minnesota. Taking a lower cash offer from Pohlad also had something to do with mistaken ideas about his loyalty. It certainly had nothing to do with a home-grown grandstander named Harvey Mackay. But more on that also in the book.Calvin-Cover-225x335 (1)

Meanwhile we can all likely be thankful that we aren’t yet having to see our national pastime played in a stadium with Trump in control. No doubt it would have had really high outfield walls. The Green Monster would have been put to shame by the shameless Orange Trumpster.

Find the book at Amazon!